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NEW YORK—Maria Sakkari, and her ATP counterpart Stefanos Tsitsipas, are making tennis a trending topic in Greece. On Monday at the US Open, Sakkari eased past American wild card Asia Muhammad, 6-3, 6-3, while Tsitsipas took out qualifier Tommy Robredo.
Though only in her third full year on tour, Sakkari’s hard work has turned into great results in 2018 highlighted by a run to the San Jose final, the first WTA final of her career. She's posted recent wins over the likes of Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova.
Sakkari is intense on the court, with an athletic baseline game that’s boosted by her incredible court coverage—this is a girl that’s not afraid to slide on a hard court. Off the court, she’s approachable and friendly. Perhaps adding to her good mood is the fact that the Greek is boosted each day by her own home-brewed espresso.
“I love coffee. I travel with my own espresso machine," she told TENNIS.com. “It's not a portable device—it weighs 2 kilos, but it's perfectly fine to travel with me so I can have my coffee every day.”
The well-caffeinated 23-year-old entered the US Open as a seeded player for the very first time, just squeaking in at No. 32.
“It was a goal we had with my coach Thomas Johansson,” Sakkari said. “We did it. So it's nice to set these goals and then achieve them. We’re quite happy.”
While Sakkari is relatively new to the tennis scene, her family isn’t. Her mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou was once an established pro, reaching as high as No. 43. One generation later, Sakkari is half of the reason tennis is booming in Greece. Tsitsipas has skyrocketed to No. 15, and Sakkari is feeding off of his success.
“We never had two players in the Top 30,” Sakkari said. “It's quite unique for us and for our country. We're all very proud for each other. After what he did in Toronto for me he was a huge inspiration that I can try to do the same thing.”
"He's so talented. For me he's unique. He's something special.”
Their paths seem remarkably in sync, as this year they have both turned into consistent threats for titles and huge upsets. They’ll be playing mixed doubles together at the Hopman Cup in January.
“We're going to practice a little bit at the end of this year,” Sakkari said. “I'm not a doubles specialist, he's too good for me. I have to get there.”
Until Tstisipas reached No. 15, Eleni Danilidou was the only Greek player to ever crack the Top 20. Sakkari is knocking on the door of becoming the next one.
With every match they play, Sakkari and Tsitsipas are doing more than good for tennis in a nation that isn’t known for racquet sports.
“We are trying to bring it up as the third sport in Greece,” Sakkari said. “Obviously soccer and basketball are big. We have very good basketball and all the guys are so into it. With our results, tennis is on TV. It's quite exciting.”
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