Maria Sakkari opens up on battling anxiety, panic in another early Slam loss

Sakkari gets candid on a shock French Open first-round loss to Varvara Gracheva.

by Dzevad Mesic
SHARE
Maria Sakkari opens up on battling anxiety, panic in another early Slam loss
© Getty Images Sport - Kelly Defina

Maria Sakkari was lost for words after another shocking Grand Slam defeat as the Greek tennis star revealed she felt "intense anxiety" throughout the entire match versus Varvara Gracheva and admitted that everything that happened to her was "purely psychological."

Sakkari, who is currently ranked at No. 7 in the world and has spent the majority of her time ranked inside the top-10 over the last few years, continued her poor Grand Slam form on Monday after world No. 88 Gracheva handed her a 3-6 6-4 6-3 loss in the French Open first round. 

For 2021 French Open semifinalist Sakkari, this was her second consecutive first-round exit at Roland Garros. Also, Sakkari is now just 3-6 in her six Grand Slam appearances since the start of 2023. 

Against Gracheva, the 28-year-old Greek made a promising start and won the first set but then her mental Slam woes reappeared. 

"It's the first time I don't know what to say..." Sakkari told SDNA when asked to assess her performance. 

"I've been feeling very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It's definitely psychological, purely. It's nothing else.

“I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set. I was feeling a panic, it's not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?"

Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Sakkari: I put too much pressure on myself not to lose early at a Slam again

At the start of the 2023 season, Sakkari reached the Australian Open third round before suffering a shock defeat to Zhu Lin. Then in the remainder of the season, Sakkari lost to Karolina Muchova in the French Open first round - Marta Kostyuk in the Wimbledon first round - and Rebeka Masarova in the US Open first round, respectively. 

This past January in Australia, the Greek tennis star managed to put an end to her three-match losing streak at a Slam level after beating Noa Hibino in the Australian Open first round. But then, the world No. 7 very disappointingly lost to Elina Avanesyan in the second round at Melbourne Park.

After also losing early at this year's French Open, Sakkari admitted that she came to Paris not wanting to pick up another early Slam exit.

"It's purely psychological, I'm not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another match in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I've recovered and I'm playing well in the other tournaments, but it's proven that I'm not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it's one thing, another thing."

Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Sakkari admits some things must change 

After suffering a shock 4-6 4-6 defeat to Masarova in last year's US Open first round, Sakkari looked very dejected and cried in her post-match press conference while getting candid about her mental problems at Slams. During her presser, Sakkari also indicated she may decide to take a break from tennis.

But then, Sakkari returned to action two weeks later and impressively won her first WTA 1000 title in Guadalajara and then also reached the Tokyo semifinal the following week. 

At the time, Sakkari was happy with how she was able to bounce back after a disappointing US Open outing and remained hopeful that her Slam issues would not return in 2024. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened for the Greek tennis star. 

Now, Sakkari again admits that some things must change because she just can't continue like this.

“How much bottom should I catch? I hope that this defeat will wake me up and understand that this is not useful somewhere. I must not miss these matches. She's a good player, but these matches I have to clean up. It's an unacceptable defeat, that's how I'll describe it," Sakkari concluded.

Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Sakkari will now probably take some time to rest and mentally recover from what happened before kicking off her preparation for the grass season and Wimbledon.

Maria Sakkari French Open Varvara Gracheva
SHARE