Olympus, the Parthenon and tennis. The panorama of Greece in the world changes thanks to two characters: Maria Sakkar Yes Stefanos Tsitsipaswho promote the image of their country thanks to the excellence they have acquired in recent years in the game of rackets.
One of the highlights came at the end of this year, when Sakkari was confirmed as the first Greek to qualify for a WTA Finals in the tournament’s 49-year history. She was also supposed to be the first representative from her country to enter the top 10 of the ranking, in which she is currently sixth, a contrast to 2020, in which her best position had been number 20.
“It’s probably the greatest tennis moment in Greek history, with two players leading the top 10, two of the best players in the world. It’s actually very, very good for tennis in my country,” Sakkari told El Economista after starting the WTA Finals with a victory (6-2 and 6-4) over Poland’s Iga Swiatek in the round robin.
Originally from Athens and a fan of tennis, sakkari stands out right now to his compatriot, Tsitsipaswho at 23 has just risen to 3rd in the world in the men’s branch, only behind the legend of Novak Djokovic and the Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Tennis is developing very quickly in Greece, it is a sport that everyone likes regardless of age. I think Stefanos and I are very proud to have achieved this. Tennis in Greece has been so important for the past two years because of us, I would say it’s already the number three sport in our country after football and basketball, it’s already quite popular,” said number 6. worldwide to this newspaper.
According to the international ranking of websites The most popular sportswhich analyzes the measurements of various media to define the most popular sports in each country, in Greece, tennis is between the third and fourth place in competition with motor sports, while football and basketball occupy the first places.
2021 has been the best sporting year for Maria Sakkarreaching the semi-finals of two Grand Slam tournaments (Roland Garros and US Open) and also the Miami Masters 1000. He did not win a title, but he added a 67% efficiency in 18 tournaments of the season , surpassing the 65% he achieved in all of 2020 (which had been his best year in terms of performance).
In the Guadalajara final, Sakkari participated in the Chichén Itzá group, alongside Spaniard Paula Badosa, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Poland’s Swiatek, whom she defeated in her first match. Note that his qualification for this tournament came after obtaining the fifth highest number of points of the season (3,341), only behind Ashleigh Barty, Sabalenka, Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova.
Mental health, a key tool for Sakkari
In this first game of WTA Finalsthe Greek ended the match with an emotional embrace towards her Polish rival, putting into practice her philosophy that “before we are tennis players, we are human beings”, in addition to the years in which her career has been accompanied by psychology.
“I’ve been working with a psychologist for years and with a sports psychologist for a year, I’ve invested a lot in that. It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. On and off the pitch, it made me a better person, it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
After episodes like Naomi Osaka at Roland Garros, set back due to the pressure of the tournament, psychology resonated in questions about the preparation of tennis players, which is why Sakkari emphasizes this activity.
“Obviously I can’t say much about what I’m working on with my psychologist, but it’s just finding ways to be kind to myself, really just finding the right way to be positive and give less weight to all the negative thoughts around tennis. That’s how I worked and it helped me a lot.”
On the particular episode with Swiatek, he commented, “I saw her struggling and it wasn’t a good thing to see on the other side of the net. She’s a very, very nice girl. I mean, we always have good practices and good discussions. Also, he’s only 20, he’s going to have a lot more opportunities than me in the future because it’s just the start of his career.