The woman standing between Emma Raducanu and the US Open final: Maria Sakkari is dating the son of the Greek Prime Minister and will hope her British coach can propel her to the final and a guaranteed $1.25m payday!
- Maria Sakkari will stand between Emma Raducanu and Saturday’s US Open final
- The world No 18 has so far not yet reached a Grand Slam final in her career
- Sakkari’s mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou used to be a top 50 professional player
- Sakkari is seen as a warrior on court, a player who can go deep into matches
- The 26-year-old has British interest in her corner as she’s coached by Tom Hill
British fans following Emma Raducanu’s fairytale in New York, that has taken her to the dizzying heights of the US Open semi-finals, will hope there are two chapters left to write.
History continues to be rewritten as the 18-year-old topples top seed after top seed, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic her latest victim, and she is the first qualifier ever at Flushing Meadows to reach the final four.
But next up is world No 18 Maria Sakkari and Raducanu will face one of the most powerful players on the women’s tour – and it’s not often they have an entire government in their corner, either.
US Open semi-finalist Maria Sakkari (right), who faces British star Emma Raducanu next, is dating Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the son of Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Sakkari (left) is 132 ranking places above Raducanu (right) heading into Friday’s match-up
Sakkari will have that having been dating Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the son of Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, since last year.
‘It has been a year now since we met and the truth is that he helped me a lot,’ Sakkari told Alpha earlier this year.
‘He is a special guy. I have disclosed the relationship anyway; it is not hidden.
‘Konstantinos is a very simple guy. I can talk to him for hours. We have a very easy relationship. He is a very easy person.’
That calming influence helped guide her to this same stage in Paris back in the summer at the French Open – only for her first Grand Slam semi-final nerves to swallow her up.
Tennis runs in Sakkari’s family but she is looking to do something her mother never did and that’s reach a Grand Slam final.
Mum Angeliki Kanellopoulou enjoyed a professional career that saw her break into the top 50 but 26-year-old Sakkari is, for the second time this year, one match away from a Slam finale.
‘It’s going to sound a little bit silly, but ever since I was a young kid I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,’ Sakkari previously said when asked about following her mum into pro tennis.
Sakkari (left) has British representation in her player box as she is trained by Tom Hill (right)
‘That’s the way I was as a character. So she would be like, “Just go hit and enjoy it.” It sounds very common, but that’s the thing she has been telling me since I was 11 and up until today.
‘To be honest even now, she’s like, “Come on, and if you lose, what happens?”‘
It is Raducanu’s first experience this deep into a Slam – not that nerves seem to be an issue so far in New York – and as well as a first Grand Slam final appearance as the carrot for the winner, a healthy $1.25million payday (£900,000) acts as an added incentive.
While 18-year-old Raducanu will have all of the UK rooting for her in the early hours of Friday morning – the blockbuster semi-final is slated for 2am UK time – it is a fellow Brit who is plotting her downfall on Sakkari’s behalf.
The Greek’s coach Tom Hill can often fly under the radar but Sakkari’s ascent into the top 20 and two Grand Slam semi-finals means credit is flooding in his direction.
‘What’s great about Maria is she’s never satisfied,’ Hill told WTA Insider in January.
‘She’s always looking to get better and better. We can finish the year at No.20 and other people will say I broke the Top 20 that’s great. For Maria it wasn’t good enough.
Sakkari is viewed as one of the big hitters and most powerful players on the women’s tour
Raducanu is no easy opponent though having not dropped a set at this tournament so far
‘Because she’s like that and we have mutual trust and respect, she’s a good listener and open to change. Once she buys into it she’s fully invested in it. I think that’s why she’s had good success since the first lockdown.’
Sakkari took up tennis at the age of six and moved out to Barcelona for better training facilities at the age of 18.
There would be some poetic symmetry if Sakkari manages to reach Saturday’s US Open final having made her first main-draw appearance as a pro at the 2015 US Open.
Dropping just one set in the tournament to date – against 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu – it is finely poised for two of the game’s form players to thrash it out on the Arthur Ashe court.
Sakkari may be ranked 132 spots above Raducanu but she’s desperately trying to shift any ‘favourite’ tag – wary of how that’s worked out for the rest of Raducanu’s opponents.
Sakkari is looking to do what her mother, who was a top 50 player, never did and reach a final
‘She’s a new player on tour so I don’t know much about her,’ Sakkari said following her win over Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.
‘Obviously she’s having the tournament of her life. She deserves to be here. She has won all these matches.
‘But I wouldn’t call myself the favourite. I think we all have equal chances of winning the semi-finals and then winning the title. I would give 25 per cent to each starting tomorrow, then 50 to the two finalists.
‘We are all here for a reason. We’re all playing well. It was not like we had five walkovers. I’m excited to play a second semi-final this year.’
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