For the players who each year return to this corner of California’s Low Desert for the BNP Paribas Open, there’s one gastronomical hub that stands out above them all, a late-night mainstay nestled along Highway 111 but a good lob from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden: In-N-Out Burger.
It’s where Canadian Bianca Andreescu celebrated her breakthrough title in 2018. And rumor had it that, on a recent Tuesday night, International Women’s Day, no less, Maria Sakkari was spotted among its parking-lot-full of diners. Her supposed order? Two Double-Doubles.
You’ll work up an appetite when you play with the kind of ferocity the Greek star does, an aggressive brand of tennis that has seen her steadily climb the rankings to her present career-high No. 6.
“I’m a huge fan of cheeseburgers. I think it’s my go-to meal, especially when I come to the States,” said the 26-year-old Athenian on Tuesday, moments after her Round-of-16 opponent, Australia’s Daria Saville, retired with a thigh injury trailing 1-4 in the opening set.
So the rumor is true?
“The rumor is true, yeah,” confessed Sakkari with her trademark smile. “I don’t see anything weird about it. Sometimes I do it more than I have to, but in general I don’t. That was one of the days. I earned it!”
Well earned, indeed. In 2021, Sakkari became first Greek woman to break into the Top 10 and the first from her country to qualify for the year-end WTA Finals. She also broke through to her first two Grand Slam semifinals at Roland Garros and the US Open, defeating three Top-20 opponents at both events. Now she’s through to a personal-best quarterfinal in Indian Wells.
The difference? Last year, it all seemed so new. Now Sakkari expects to be here; expects to be vying for titles week in, week out.
“It might sound a little cocky, might sound weird, as well, but I feel like the tournament starts now for me emotionally,” she said.
“I’m used to going deep. Now I feel like it’s not something new for me. From last year, it doesn’t feel very tiring to go deep into a tournament. It takes a different amount of time for every player. It depends when you break through, I guess. For me, last year was a very crucial year. I think I just feel very comfortable now being in the later stages of the tournament.”
Partial credit should go to Sakkari’s Tom Hill-led team, her friends, and her close-knit family, including siblings Yannis and Amanda, for keeping her grounded; for setting her up to chase her big-title dreams.
“I enjoy my life outside the court,” she said. “Especially right now that I’m a more settled player, on the top. Having a team that is fun and is not miserable, you can spend time with them. Now in the U.S., I have my sister because she lives here. I try to have people around me, whether it’s my boyfriend or some friend of mine or my family. It always makes your life on the tour a lot easier. But I like the fact that I’m a normal person outside the court.”
Regardless of whom she faces in the quarterfinals — Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina or Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic — Sakkari will take the court expecting to come out on top.
“No matter who wins, I’m going to try to make their life tougher on court.”
As she exited her post-match press conference on Tuesday, Sakkari pursued a group of reporters, curious as to whether In-N-Out indeed served the best when it came to the most American of American cuisines. The replies came fast and furious, as they do when you’re talking fast food with journalists. Should she win three more matches here in the desert, claiming her first WTA 1000 title, she will surely have earned the right to celebrate with another burger. Who knows, maybe even a Double-Double or two.