The impact successful athletes have in the rise of popularity in any given sport is undeniable. Both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari definitely fall under this category, as the Greek players are transforming the sport in a country that has little tradition in the tennis.
Site tennis.com posted a feature piece outlining their significant contribution to the sport in Greece with successive achievements.
Tennis has rarely had a top player from Greece. Now, it has two, with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari each achieving new career-high rankings with their recent clay-court runs.
Both reached the semifinals of Rome, having also won titles the same week at Estoril and Rabat. Tsitsipas, 20, is at No. 6 in the ATP rankings, while Sakkari is up to No. 29 in the WTA rankings.
“I feel like we’re the dynamic duo coming from Greece, inspiring young kids, people in general that want to play tennis,” Tsitsipas told press in Rome, where he defeated Fabio Fognini before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
Sakkari upset Anett Kontavelt and Petra Kvitova before losing against Karolina Pliskova, who also won the event.
The pair have known each other for a long time, playing together at the Hopman Cup. Tsitsipas emphasized the quality of Sakkari’s play and said her success has helped him.
“She’s playing great. [Maria] feels very motivated, very comfortable when on the court,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m happy to see that. She’s one of the fittest players.
“Her groundstrokes are pretty good. I mean, you saw that against Roger [Federer] in the Hopman Cup, the craziest return ever, cross-court backhand.
“If she’s [having] a good day with her serve, I think the rest comes automatically. Backhand is unbelievable. She can control it really well. I’m really inspired by her, to see what she’s done. I really hope she feels inspired by me.”
The big-hitting Tsitsipas—who also reached the final in Madrid, upsetting Nadal—is the first Greek player to reach the Top 10.
Sakkari said their climb is even more noteworthy because they did not receive a lot of national support with their development.
“We never had two good players playing at the same time,” Sakkari said, adding that it was helping sports in the country. “We don’t see it that much in sport. So now I think with the two of us and some other good athletes, it’s very nice.
“I feel very proud being Greek, being Spartan, being from this country. We have been having a tough time for the last 10 years. I think bringing good results and happiness to people, it’s very nice.”
Both players will be seeded at the French Open in Paris. The main draw begins on May 26.