After losing in the first round of the US Open at the end of August, a despondent Maria Sakkari told reporters that she was considering taking a break from the sport. It was her third straight opening-round loss at a major, and she tearfully said she was "uncertain" about what was next.
On Saturday, less than a month later, Sakkari won the title at the 1000-level Guadalajara Open.
Sakkari didn't drop a set during her run to the title in Mexico -- and her 7-5, 6-3 victory over Caroline Dolehide in the final resulted in the biggest title of her career and her first since 2019. She fell to the ground after the match was over and couldn't hide just how much the moment meant to her.
"I'm just very proud of myself," Sakkari, 28, told WTA Insider after the match. "Being like that at the US Open, wanting to take a break, and then finding the joy again during the week. It's a big title, my biggest title, it means so much.
"But over everything, it's just pure happiness and pure joy."
Because of her recent success at the tournament (she reached the semis in 2021 and the final last year), and the Mexican national soccer jersey she donned for a post-match interview on-court earlier in the week, the Greek Sakkari was a crowd favorite.
She wore the jersey again -- along with the customary champion's sombrero -- as she celebrated her victory. Many others in the sport were inspired by her perseverance and determination. Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini, Rennae Stubbs, Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic were among the former and current players to congratulate her after the win.
"You showed everyone your strength and talent this week in Guadalajara," Evert wrote to Sakkari on Twitter. "Keep the belief."
Sakkari is now back up to No. 6 in the rankings and has a chance to qualify for the year-end WTA Finals in Cancun. Her monumental win wasn't the only thing happening around the tennis world last week. Here's what else you might have missed:
On the rise
It wasn't just Sakkari who found unexpected success in Guadalajara.
Dolehide, her final opponent, had the best result of her career at the tournament. The 25-year-old American had never reached a WTA final, of any level, before, and she had never advanced past the third round at an 1000-level event. But she didn't let her lack of experience stop her, upsetting No. 8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-1, 6-2, and finding a way to win in three sets in three of her victories.
The two-time US Open doubles semifinalist entered the tournament ranked No. 111 and left with a career-high ranking of No. 42. Sakkari praised Dolehide for what she had achieved during her victory speech.
"I've known you for so many years ..." Sakkari said. "I always knew you had an amazing game, it was about time for it to click and it happened this week. You have so many more opportunities to come up. This is just the beginning."
Dolehide was one of two Americans who made the semifinals in Guadalajara. Sofia Kenin, who ultimately lost to Dolehide, has looked resurgent in recent weeks. It had been a tough stretch for the 2020 Australian Open champion and she had fallen outside of the top 400 last summer -- but things seem to be back on track for the 24-year-old.
After coming through qualifying and pulling off an upset win over Gauff at Wimbledon, Kenin reached the third round at the US Open and then made the final at San Diego and the semis at Guadalajara. She's now ranked No. 31 -- her highest ranking since January of 2022. In a post on Instagram, Kenin was clearly pleased about what she had accomplished.
Clinched by the All-American doubles team of Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton, Team World defeated Team Europe to win its second-straight Laver Cup title on Sunday. Playing at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and with the event's namesake Rod Laver and event founder Roger Federer in the house for the three-day event, the World squad took control from the start and won with an impressive 13-2 final score. The team celebrated accordingly.
In 2022, Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray combined as part of Team Europe, and Federer and Nadal played doubles together in Federer's last match before retirement. Because the 2023 edition lacked the star power that made the 2022 edition so memorable, much of the conversation this year centered around an existential question: What exactly is the event?
During the final singles match on Friday, Team World's Felix Auger Aliassime asked the chair umpire to monitor how much time his opponent Gael Monfils was taking between points. Monfils voiced his displeasure to Auger Aliassime, as well as the rest of his European team, and it became immediately clear the two players had differing opinions of what the Laver Cup is. Auger Aliassime was treating it like a standard tournament and Monfils believed it to be an exhibition. "They call me and say 'You can be free,'" Monfils said to his team. "For me, I'm here to have fun."
The Laver Cup, exhibition or not?— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) September 23, 2023
- FAA: "I want to play seriously"
- Monfils: "I'm here to have fun"
Even between players that's quite a debate ⚡︎pic.twitter.com/G2lA7ZWuRS
While the debate continues by fans on social media, it seems as if Auger Aliassime and Team World's philosophy might have proved more successful. While no ranking points are awarded for the event, each member of the winning team received $250,000, in addition to a participation fee.
After Mackenzie McDonald defeated Shang Juncheng in the first round at Zhuhai on Thursday, he noticed Shang was struggling to move due to cramping, so he ran over to his side of the court. After Shang congratulated McDonald for the win, he asked if he could help him get to his chair. McDonald didn't hesitate.
"I said, 'Hop on,'' McDonald told ATPTour.com. "So he jumped on my back and I carried him over to the bench."
Yes, that's right -- McDonald gave Shang a piggyback ride after the match. That has to be right up there in the "How to win over fans" playbook, right after wearing the home nation's soccer jersey.
Dancing with the former world No. 1
When two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza announced she would be taking a break from tennis earlier this year, she didn't say what she would be doing with her time away from the game. In addition to all the jealousy-inducing travel seen on her Instagram page, it turns out the 29-year-old has also become a Zumba instructor.
While it's unclear if she's actively teaching the class, Muguruza attended a workshop for instructors across Europe last week -- and she looked to be absolutely crushing it and, even more importantly, so happy to be there.
Muguruza hasn't played in a match since January but has previously said she plans to return to the tour in 2024.
Kids these days
By now you've probably seen the viral video of Jack Draper joyously singing "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" in the car with Andy Murray after Great Britain's Davis Cup victory in Manchester last week. And if you haven't, you need to get yourself up to speed immediately.
Now, because this video truly is the gift that keeps on giving, Draper has provided some insight to the LTA about the duo's three-and-a-half hour car ride. The 21-year-old Draper said he "maybe had a few drinks" but said Murray helped pick out some of the songs played on the journey. Despite Murray's fed-up dad energy and facial expressions, he rated Draper's singing a 7.5 out of 10.
"He's a tough man to please; I'm pretty happy with that," Draper said.