New York, September 7: Maria Sakkari felt she got her just rewards for being brave as she triumphed in a late-night US Open thriller against Bianca Andreescu.
The Greek sealed a 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory in a gruelling last-16 clash that finally concluded at 02:13 local time in New York – the latest finish to a women's singles match in tournament history.
Sakkari saved eight of the 12 break points she faced as she racked up 46 winners and 40 unforced errors after adopting a bold approach to fight back from a set down and wrap up the victory in three hours and 30 minutes.
She ended 2019 champion Andreescu's 10-match unbeaten streak at the US Open and was delighted to see her tactics pay off, with Karolina Pliskova standing between her and second grand slam semi-final of the year.
All the emotions at 2 AM. pic.twitter.com/EnGd5gMvNy— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021
Speaking about her fearless showing, Sakkari, who was beaten in the last four at Roland Garros, said: "It's something that I've been working with [coach] Tom [Hill] since end of last year, but I felt like I lost that bravery after the French. I was more hesitant. I was not going for it so much.
"After my loss [in Cincinnati] with Angie [Angelique Kerber] I just practiced for two weeks. I had some very tough practices where I was crying because I could not feel my shots, I could not feel my tennis. But thankfully I had Tom and Yannis, my hitting partner, that supported me a lot.
"I lost my identity. That's how I called it. I lost myself, part of myself. With my psychologist, as well, I found a way to come back and feel again what I felt out there today.
"By telling myself to be more brave, it's not like, Maria, now be brave, and you're brave. It's just a process in practice and everything that has helped me to be more brave.
"I mean, there was a decent crowd staying until 2:30 at night. I said, Maria, you cannot give up. Just stay focused and stay calm and just make balls."