FLASHBACK: Highlights of Sakkari's wild Guadalajara win over Sabalenka

Greece's Maria Sakkari enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2021, rising 19 spots in the rankings to No. 6 on the WTA Tour.

Sakkari reached the semis at Roland Garros, where she held match point, before matching that run at the US Open. She also made the final four at the WTA Finals, capping a season that included wins over Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek, Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Pliskova—all Grand Slam winners or finalists.

In a column for Eurosport, she explains that a more positive mentality contributed to the bulk of her success.

"Before this year, I would say that sometimes I was a little too hard and negative on myself," Sakkari said. "This season, with the help of surrounding myself with the right people, I’ve concentrated on making myself much more positive.

"I would definitely say that being nice to yourself is always a good idea. That is what we’ve mostly been focusing on and adjusting my attitude has definitely led to gradual improvement."


Sakkari points to her third-round match at the French Open against Elise Mertens as a "big turning point" in this change, while also looking at the most painful defeat of her season, a 9-7 final-set semifinal loss to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova, as an opportunity for growth.

"It's a learning experience and something that can make me even better and stronger," said Sakkari.

This mindset allowed her to reach a career-high ranking at the age of 26, which she says is "even more special" at this point in her career.

"I think having a breakthrough at this age requires having a different sort of mentality," she said. "When you are young... you’re fearless—you don’t think and you just play. At 26, you are a lot more mature, a lot more aware and you have to handle things differently."

Sakkari's next goal is to bring more confidence to her matches, which could help her in bigger moments. But first, she's relishing what was accomplished this season before returning to training.

"During the off-season, my plan is simply to rest and basically do nothing," she said. "I just want to take this opportunity to rest and then plan my next season."