Sakkari: 'A lot of things have changed in me'

Greek star says she is in a good place as she prepares for her Roland-Garros 2024 campaign

Maria Sakkari / Roland-Garros 2023©Loïc Wacziak / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Since she broke into the top 10 for the first time in September 2021, Maria Sakkari has spent every week inside that elite ranking bracket except for one.

Sakkari’s consistency is underrated and can sometimes be overlooked with the likes of Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elena Rybakina hogging the headlines as they battle it out for the biggest titles on tour week in, week out.

Maria Sakkari, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Julien Crosnier / FFT

The trio have engaged in some epic duels over the past 18 months, somewhat separating themselves from the rest of the pack and being dubbed the WTA’s ‘Big Three’ by fans and pundits.

Sakkari, who peaked at world No.3 two years ago, is paying little attention to any ‘Big Three’ speculation, and is quick to point out there is great depth at the top of women’s tennis right now, with multiple players able to shake up the top order.  

“Iga has been incredible the last couple of years, but everyone’s beatable and you can easily squeeze in there with one good week and then things can be a lot different for you,” Sakkari told

“I just feel like for me, my main goal is to get into that top-three level and then everything for me is possible.

“Iga is the most stable player right now, but I just feel like everyone is playing good. And on a good day, everyone can beat anyone. So I don’t really pay attention to that ‘Big Three’ talk, because I don’t think it’s only three players at that level right now, it’s more than three.”

Building momentum

After starting her 2024 season with a lukewarm 5-4 win-loss record, Sakkari’s campaign gathered steam as she stormed to the final in Indian Wells, quarters in Miami, and semi-finals in Charleston in her next three events.

The Greek star is 7-3 on clay coming into Roland-Garros (not including BJK Cup), and 19-9 overall for the year.

“Firstly, I think that the experience I have now on the tour, every match situation I think helps me develop that (consistency),” the 28-year-old said.

“I feel like it really helps that the last three years I have been very consistent with my results and my ranking. You know me, I want more than that, but I just have to, first of all, get that stability back and just try and improve my game, which looks that it’s getting better already.”

Maria Sakkari, Roland Garros 2023, first round©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Sakkari has indeed made great strides within the past three months. In February, she took a difficult decision to end her six-year coaching partnership with Tom Hill and hired Jessica Pegula's and Venus Williams’ former coach David Witt shortly after.

“It’s never easy when you have to take that decision. I just felt like we couldn’t help each other anymore, and that’s what I told him,” said Sakkari of her split with Hill.

“We had a very nice chat in Doha. I think we could both see that we couldn’t continue together, we couldn’t get good results anymore, from working the two of us, for now.

“We finished on good terms and Tom will always be like a brother to me. I’m happy he gets to be back on the tour (coaching Peyton Stearns). I’ll always be there for him, no matter what.

“I just felt like I needed something different, which I found now with David.”

A novel approach

Listening to a new voice after such a long working relationship with someone else can be tricky, but Sakkari was ready to make that move. Her first tournament with Witt was Indian Wells and the result spoke for itself.

“It was easy. It was actually nice to hear someone else. Nothing personal against Tom, of course, it was just nice to have a different voice,” explained Sakkari.

“David is very experienced, very mature, he’s been on the tour for so many years and he’s worked with two very good players.

“[It's great] being able to have a person that experienced in my team, and very laid-back and just relaxed. Because my character is very Mediterranean, I get stressed, I get emotional, but since I’ve been working with David, a lot of things have changed in me. I don’t feel any stress from the box, which is great.”

Maria Sakkari, Roland Garros 2023, first round©Julien Crosnier / FFT

‘I’m where I want to be’

Sakkari likes the fact that Witt doesn’t overcomplicate things, which has helped her put together a stretch of decent results in consecutive tournaments.

“I just felt like there was a consistency, which I really like because I feel like that's what's going to take me to my level where I'm going to hopefully win a big title,” she said in Rome. “That's what I'm looking for right now.”

A former Roland-Garros and US Open semi-finalist, Sakkari hasn’t made it to the second week in any of her past eight Grand Slam appearances. She feels different though heading into Paris, happy with her level while not placing too much emphasis on wins and losses.

Maria Sakkari, Rome 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“I’ve experienced that high expectation thing in the past and it didn’t really work. What I’m focused on right now is just to keep that momentum going,” she said.

“I just feel like that I’m feeling good about my tennis. I might lose in the next round, I might not, I might win this week, whatever, nobody knows. I’m just happy with how I feel right now.

“Maybe this clay season is not going to be the way I want it to be, maybe I play great on the grass, who knows. I just know I’m where I want to be and I feel the way I want to feel.”