It’s been a breakthrough year for Maria Sakkari in several ways, but this week she took it to a whole new level when she rose from No. 18 to No. 13 on the WTA rankings after reaching her second Grand Slam semifinal of the year at the US Open.

She’s now the highest-ranked Greek woman in WTA rankings history.

Before Sakkari, the only Greek woman to reach the Top 20 of the WTA rankings was Eleni Daniilidou, who went as high as No. 14 in 2003 and won five career WTA titles, and whose best results at Grand Slams were three fourth-round showings at Wimbledon in 2002 (falling to Jennifer Capriati), the Australian Open in 2003 (falling to Serena Williams) and the US Open in 2004 (falling to Shinobu Asagoe).

Sakkari only has one WTA title, at a WTA 250 on clay in 2019 in Rabat, Morocco, but she’s far surpassed Daniilidou at the Grand Slam stage, not only becoming the first Greek woman to reach the quarterfinals of a major, but reaching two semifinals. Her first came at Roland Garros earlier this year, where she actually had a match point against Barbora Krejcikova, and her second came just last week at the US Open.

She's closing in fast on the Top 10, too—she’s No. 6 in the year-to-date standings.

“I think I’m the best age of my career,” she said during her run in Flushing Meadows. “I’m more mature than before. As I said many times, I think every single player has a different timing of breaking through. Now it’s probably my time at the age of 26.

“I came in late in the tour. I was not a good junior. I was not a star when I was 18 of 19 years old. I had to work and sacrifice a lot from my life. But it’s now paying off, and I’m very happy that at the age of 26, I can actually achieve these results.”

Sakkari's biggest career win came against a No. 2-ranked Naomi Osaka in Miami this year.

Sakkari's biggest career win came against a No. 2-ranked Naomi Osaka in Miami this year.


One reason Sakkari has been able to take that next step and reach two Grand Slam semifinals this year is her play against the biggest names on the biggest stages. Coming into this year, she was 0-7 against Top 10 players at majors—but she went 4-0 against them at majors this year, beating No. 5 Sofia Kenin and No. 9 Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros and No. 7 Bianca Andreescu and No. 4 Karolina Pliskova at the US Open.

Sakkari would fall to eventual champion Emma Raducanu in the semifinals in New York, 6-1, 6-4, but that loss to the British teenager—who didn't drop a set to anybody all tournament—seemed to motivate her even more to keep reaching for bigger things.

“It’s not like I’m their age, had big results at that age—I always need to go step by step. My career so far has been a marathon, not a sprint,” Sakkari said.

“I’m just going to accept what happened today. As I said earlier, that gives me even more power to go back on court and practice even more.”

Should Sakkari break the Top 10, she would be the second Greek player ever to reach that elite on either the ATP or WTA rankings, after Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’s currently ranked a career-high No. 3 on the ATP rankings. The 23-year-old is also the only Greek player other than Sakkari to reach the quarterfinals or better at a major—he’s been to one final (2021 Roland Garros) and three semifinals so far.