"She wants it so badly, it holds her back": Martina Navratilova assesses Maria Sakkari ahead of second chance at WTA Finals

Martina Navratilova opined on Maria Sakkari's opportunity as the first alternate in the WTA Finals following Karolina Muchova's withdrawal.

World No. 9 is in the WTA Finals for the third consecutive time, boasting a good record of 5-3, having reached the semifinals on both occasions. Maria Sakkari had an uneven 2023 season and was on the verge of falling out of the top-10, but a strong late-year surge allowed her to win the WTA 1000 Guadalajara Open and close out the year on a better note.

After the withdrawal of the 2023 French Open finalist, Karolina Muchova, Sakkari entered the tournament as the first alternate, making a last-minute entry into the Finals in Cancun.

Former world No. 1 Martina Navratilova commented on Sakkari's chances in the tournament despite a challenging year:

“With Muchova pulling out, I think Maria will be thrilled that she’s in. She was probably down in the dumps -- her only hope was somebody pulling out, and that’s exactly what happened. And now, you’re playing with house money, so pressure’s off in a way. And any time with house money, it’s a second chance. For me, what I see is that she wants it so badly it holds her back,” 18-times Grand Slam champion said.

“Maria likes Mexico; she just won the Guadalajara 1000. And it’s her third straight year in the Finals. Last year she won all three round-robin matches to get to the semifinals. This is a massive windfall emotionally and financially. This can really salvage a season and give you a nice springboard for next season,” Martina Navratilova added.

Sakkari is in the same group as Aryna Sabalenka (1st), Elena Rybakina (4th), and Jessica Pegula (5th). The Greek player will make her debut against the Belarusian, and she has the opportunity to defend the points from the 2022 Finals, where she won all three round-robin matches but suffered a loss in the semifinals against the eventual champion, Caroline Garcia.

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