Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari found herself in a dark place earlier this year as there was a period when she was dealing with panic attacks and withdrawing from those close to her.
In March, Sakkari broke into the top-3 for the first time in her career.
By reaching a career-high ranking of No 3 in the world, Sakkari felt that everything changed around her and that the pressure and expectations massively increased.
In an interview with Eurosport, Sakkari and her coach Tom Hill opened up about the 27-year-old’s dark period.
“I had never experienced those things before. It was a new situation for me this year because obviously coming from a country that is very small, you have all the expectations, all the eyes on you and then you feel like you have to perform every single week, so you’re going to tournaments thinking that, ‘Ah, I have to win every single match right now’. And for me it was a learning lesson and at the end of the day I feel like it was good it happened this year so I know what to do differently next year.”
Coach reveals the dark spot in which Sakkari fell
After beating Paula Badosa in the Indian Wells semifinal, Sakkari was guaranteed a spot inside the top-3.
Sakkari then easily lost the Indian Wells final and also suffered a shock defeat in her Miami opener.
“The main thing was that match against [Paula] Badosa in Indian Wells when she found out she got to No. 3 in the world; she never thought she could be No. 3 in the world. We never talked rankings, we never said anything like that, and then when they said it at that moment, ‘You’re now No.3 in the world’, it was like, ‘Woah’. She started just kind of having panic attacks and just went away from her whole game, completely forgot how it is she was supposed to play, went away from her routines, kind of distanced herself from everybody. It’s been a really difficult time for her,” Hill told Eurosport.
For the past month, Sakkari has been working again with a sports psychologist.
The dark days are past Sakkari as her joy for tennis is slowly returning and she is competing at this week’s WTA Finals event.