The new wonderkid of Greek tennis, Michaela Laki, puts no limits on her dreams

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A young girl from Larisa full of enthusiasm, dreams and ambitions, who loves what she does more than anything in the world while enjoys hanging out with her friends in her spare time.

That could serve as a simple description of 16-year-old athlete Michaela Laki after our conversation with her.

Yet, we would be leaving out some very important details.

Like for example, the fact that just a few days ago she won the Greek championship title in tennis after beating Dimitra Pavlou 2-0 set in the final or that only a couple of months ago she was able to reach the round of 16 in the Roland Garros juniors division, leaving spectators impressed with her performance.

And those are only but a few from the rapidly growing list of her achievements in the sport.

Michaela with her Under-14 European Champion trophy. Image: tennisnews.gr

But for Michaela herself, who started playing tennis at the age of six, it’s become a way of life:

“From when I was young, I liked it [tennis] a lot. I remember back then, it was considered a very different sport, not many people played it. It didn’t have the attention that it gained in recent years due to the success of athletes like [Stefanos] Tsitsipas or [Maria] Sakkari and there wasn’t so much noise on social media. I also like the fact that it’s a solitary sport, I enjoy being by myself inside the court.”

When speaking about the recent string of successes by Tsitsipas and Sakkari, who she characterizes as her role models, Michaela points out that their wins keep her motivated: “Stefanos and Maria are perfect examples of how a professional athlete should be and especially for someone like me who’s just starting out in the industry. It’s really important to have two Greeks so high up in the rankings. It motivates me to keep trying.”

Recently there’s been a lot of talks going around in regards to the mental health of the athletes when dealing with the media representatives, especially after Naomi Osaka chose to withdraw from the French Open as she could not handle answering the questions of the journalists in the post-game press conferences.

Michaela Laki was able to reach the round of 16 at the recent Roland Garros juniors edition. Image: gazzetta.gr

Yet Michaela seems to have a handle on the situation and understands the obligations that come from being a professional: “Some people may get affected by this, but thankfully something like that hasn’t happened to me yet and I hope it never does. I understand that press conferences are part of our job, we need to speak to the media after each game, whether we’re feeling well or not.

“And I believe that it’s for this exact reason that athletes are paid so well, because of all the promotion they get from journalists and social media, they play a great role in the evolution of our career. I’m in a great environment, my coach Mr Phivos Michalopoulos offers me great advice and my parents are there to protect me from such matters so I don’t think I’ll be affected by this in the future.”

When she’s out of the court, the aspiring athlete explains that she’s just like any other girl her age who enjoys the company of her friends: “I live in Larisa, but I travel a lot. I feel like I’m living two lives; one is inside the court and the other is in my everyday routine.

“But it’s very important for me, when I’m not training, to be able to have that time off to relax and enjoy myself so that my mind can drift away a bit. There’s a lot of pressure in this sport and it’s great to have friends who make me laugh, support me, help me forget about everything because afterwards I have a greater appetite to go back and play tennis.”

As we wrap up our interview the ambitious young champion sends her message to all the Greeks of Australia: “I’ve never been there before, I was meant to come over for last year’s Open but that was cancelled.

“I hope everything goes well and I’m able to play in the next edition. I hope I have the support of the Greek community, it’ll be great to see them in the stands! I’ll do my best and I’ll try extra hard for all those who come to cheer me on!”

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