The new rising star in Greek tennis is Michaela Laki, a 16-year-old who made her debut in the Roland Garros Juniors competition, climbing to the 16th spot in the competition.
To qualify for the next round in the the first Grand Slam tournament of her career, Laki had to beat fellow Greek Sofia Kostoula, which she did by the scores of 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(1).
Kostoula played very well and won the first set, but Laki came back, determined to claim the match.
Laki had to erase a break point at 2-4 to avoid being left behind with a double break. Yet she managed to keep the difference in one break and in the 10th game made the break, which put her back in the game (5-5).
The game was a nail-biter and Lake managed to keep her serve and went ahead for the first time in the third set, at 6-5.
At that point, Kostoula asked for medical attention for cramps, but regulations would not allow her to receive a medical time out for such a problem.
She continued to play with full concentration and managed to send it to the tie-break, but Laki dominated and prevailed over her, 7-1.
This victory saw Laki qualify for the “round of 16” best at Roland Garros Stadium.
In the next round, however, she lost to No. 6 seed in the world ranking of juniors, Robin Montgomery.
Nevertheless, any participation in a Grand Slam is no small feat for the 16-year-old girl from Larissa.
In the footsteps of Tsitsipas and Sakkari
Those who have seen young Laki play say that she has all the characteristics to reach the levels enjoyed by Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari in international tennis.
In fact, the teenager played at Roland Garros only days before Sunday’s final when Tsitsipas lost to tennis master Novak Djokovic.
Currently ranking at number 23 of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Rankings – her highest point being 22 in April – she has a 79 percent overall Win rate in 2021, with 15 wins and 4 losses.
Laki started playing tennis at 5 and her athletic career has only gone up from there. On July 28, 2019 she won the U14 European Championship in Most, in the Czech Republic, being the second Greek teenage girl to play in that particular final.
Naturally, she admires Maria Sakkari, a great example of a Greek woman playing tennis at such a high level. She also likes the fighting spirit and passion for the sport that Serena Williams has always exhibited.
At 16, after playing so well in such top tournaments, Laki does not approach the tennis court as a teenage girl but as an ambitious athlete full of excitement and determination.
This summer will be a busy one for the budding tennis great. She will participate in a London tournament at the end of the month, her first time to ever play on grass, and she will be practicing for Wimbledon in July.
Roland Garros, then Wimbledon: it seems that the new tennis wonder Michaela Laki has achieved so much at such an early age. But when you are 16, talented and devoted to the sport, there are no limits.
More Greeks getting into tennis
The stellar international successes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari in such a short period of time have generated new interest in a sport that has been the pastime for very few Greek people until now.
Tennis academies are springing up left and right all over Greece as many youngsters are eager to grab a racket and hit the fuzzy ball. People in their 20s are also picking up the racket for the first time.
In Greece, tennis has always been associated with affluent people who play in private courts in their villas, or in members-only clubs.
But just like basketball in 1987, when Greece won the European Cup and Greeks developed an obsession with the sport literally overnight, tennis looks like it will be the craze of the 2020s.
Yet in Greece you will still have to pay handsomely to play tennis: there are no official tournaments, no competition, no sponsors, and no organization as a basis to even start.
Therefore, there are no incentives for most youngsters to play the sport.
Yet you still see people willing to make sacrifices, enrolling in tennis clubs, or paying good money to organize amateur matches and makeshift tournaments — a good indication that the tennis craze may be finally able to take root for good in Greece.