Maria Sakkari has illuminated Roland Garros with a performance of high emotion and real flair but was left bemoaning a “rookie error” which ended the Greek dream of a double French Open triumph.
Sakkari, the top seed left in the women’s draw at No.17, held match point against Barbora Krejcikova on Thursday as she stood on the verge of becoming the first Greek woman to reach a grand slam final.
Victory would have set up the prospect of an historic weekend for Greek tennis, with her compatriot and friend Stefanos Tsitsipas starting favourite to beat Alexander Zverev in Friday’s men’s semi-finals.
But instead of continuing the attacking adventure that had seen her come from a set down and move a point away from victory at 5-3 in the decider, Sakkari reckoned stress took over in a marathon 7-5 4-6 9-7 defeat.
“Yeah, I have to be deadly honest – I got stressed, starting thinking that I’m a point away from being in the final. I guess it’s a rookie mistake,” the 25-year-old shrugged.
“Just got a little bit stressed, got a little bit more passive on my game. Yeah, didn’t go for it. I just didn’t play offensive. I was a little bit defensive, especially in the big points.”
After missing out on her match point, the big-hitting Sakkari then failed to serve out for the match at 5-4 as the resilient unseeded Czech Krejcikova battled back and proved the stronger player in the denouement.
“I couldn’t find a way to break her after five-all,” said Sakkari, who, like Krejcikova, had been in her maiden slam semi-final.
“Good thing is that if I give myself a chance again to be in that position, then I know that I don’t have to do it again. It’s human emotions, but I think I’ll learn from it.
“Of course, I’m proud of my run here, but it hurts a lot because I was so close. I was just one point away. But what can you do? I just have to embrace it and just move forward.
“I would have done things differently now. It’s too late now,” she said, offering a rueful smile.
Ironically, she produced her most decisive and aggressive tennis when saving four match points of her own with some superb shots.
“I never give up. I never felt like I gave up today. I just tried to find a way when I was match point down. I went for it.”