Paris: Maria Sakkari has been knocking on the door at the Grand Slams for a long time. On a sunny Monday afternoon on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, she kicked it down.
Sakkari, making her 21st appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, rumbled past 2020 Roland-Garros runner-up Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-3 in 68 minutes to become the first Greek woman to reach a Grand-Slam quarter-final in the Open Era.
"I knew it was going to come," she told reporters after making history for her country. "I didn't know when. But I think that I've been playing very good tennis, especially this year, and I don't see why [I can't go] further, as well."
Her takedown of the No.4 seed leaves just one top-10 women's seed standing in the women’s singles draw: 2020 champion Iga Swiatek, seeded eighth, who Sakkari could potentially face next.
No matter who Sakkari ends up facing in her first major quarter-final, she'll come in buoyed by self-belief, which she partially attributes to her three-set victory over Elise Mertens in round three.
"Especially after winning that match against Elise, playing the way I did, I think it was an extremely high-level match, that gave me so much confidence that I can do it again and again and again," she said.
Sakkari is a tenacious force of nature who wears her heart on her sleeve, sometimes to her own detriment - but not so much this week in Paris.
“I’m actually enjoying myself,” a smiling Sakkari told the crowd after her triumph. “That’s the most important thing. I enjoy my time on court and I’m actually not torturing myself when I’m on court.”
After years of steady progress, Sakkari may have stumbled into a way to accelerate her ascent in recent weeks. The Athens native told reporters on Saturday that she recently set her watch to Island time to decompress after a rough patch on the clay.