"We've been working really hard on a daily basis. And I think if you keep your head high...the wins are going to come", says Thomas Johansson, the coach who Maria Sakkari hired after the 2017 US Open. But the 2018 season didn't start off good for the Athens, Greece tennis pro.
It was a straight six tournaments that Sakkari didn't reach any further than the second round before bailing out to her opponents. She became frtustrated as to what could be the issue of not going deep in the events, but she stayed determined and felt that Indian Wells may be the tournament she would change her luck--and it was.
She entered the desert event ranked number 58, but stayed focused to just have fun and do well. The first round of the BNP tournament she played opposite Donna Vekic, a young Croatian player ranked in the 50s who is also on the rise, but she defeated her in straight sets.
The surprises were to come as Sakkari's second round draw as Ashleigh Barty who had defeated many top rankers and presented a tremendous challenge. But she kept digging and being aggressive with the Barty match to win 6-4, 6-2.
Sakkari continued her fierce playing and dynamic strategies with acute cross courting and quick volleying to even win over Coco Vandeweghe also in straight sets. She felt gratified to have a victory over her and says of the wins that "...beating Ashleigh...gave me a lot of confidence actually, so I went out there and I was confident in myself.
I knew I could tak (Vandeweghe) down...I think I was ready for that one", Sakkari said smilingly. The Greek was unshaken by Vandeweghe's known antics and swagger on the court and was glad she came through with the win.
"I think I'm returning really well, I'm solid from the baseline and my serve is quite solid as well. I'm not scared. I had that rough beginning of the year, but now hard work is paying off". The Miami Open is starting to warm up for Maria Sakkari whois putting all of that practice and genetics into action coming from a former WTA playing mom Angeliki Kanellopoulou and having a grandfather who was a tennis coach.
She glided into the Florida tournament and won her opening round against Aleksandra Krunic, soaring over her 7-5, 6-1. The consistency Sakkari has shown presents a great challenge indeed, for other players and for Sakkari to continue her focus and determination in picking up victories along the way, leading to perhaps a maiden title to complete this 2018 touring season.