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Sakkari, oldest of the four semi-finalists: “I’m the best age of my career”

Maria Sakkari, not exactly a grizzled veteran at 26 years old, is the oldest of the four semi-finalists at the US Open. She will face 18-year-old Emma Raducanu on Thursday.

Maria Sakkari Maria Sakkari AI / REUTERS / PANORAMIC

Prior to this season, Maria Sakkari had never advanced to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.

Now, at 26 years old, she has reached the semi-finals at two of the last three slams.

Sakkari punched her ticket to the last four of the US Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday night. The Greek previously made a run to the French Open semis — at which stage she came within one point of reaching the title match.

Despite that Roland-Garros heartbreak, Sakkari is quite obviously enjoying what is by far the best year of her career. Although 26 isn’t particularly old, she is a late bloomer compared to the rest of the semi-finalists in New York. Aryna Sabalenka is 23, while Leylah Fernandez turned 19 earlier this week and Emma Raducanu is 18.

For sure I’m not old.

Maria Sakkari

“For sure (I’m) not old,” Sakkari said following her defeat of Pliskova. “I think I’m the best age of my career. I’m more mature than before. As I said many times, I think every single player has a different timing of breaking through. Now it’s probably my time at the age of 26.

“I came in late in the tour. I was not a good junior; I was not a star when I was 18 or 19 years old. I had to work and sacrifice a lot from my life. But it’s now paying off and I’m very happy that at the age of 26 I can actually achieve these results.”

Maria Sakkari, US Open 2021
Maria Sakkari, US Open 2021

Sakkari is eight years older than semi-final foe

It is true that Sakkari is far from being old — but she is old relative to the age of her upcoming semi-final opponent. Along with fellow teenager Fernandez, Raducanu has been one of the sensations of this US Open. The Brit has won eight total matches (three in qualifying) without dropping a single set. Nobody in the main draw has taken more than four games off her in any set.

Sakkari isn’t about to take Raducanu lightly just because of her youth.

“She’s a new player on tour so I don’t know much about her,” the world No 18 noted. “Obviously she’s having the tournament of her life. She deserves to be here. She has won all these matches.

“I wouldn’t call myself the favorite. I think we all have equal chances of winning the semi-finals and then winning the title. I would give (a) 25 percent 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.”

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