The US Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam of the season, is a hard court tournament, but grass was the topic of conversation for Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari following her early exit on Monday.
The No. 8 seed was upset 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open by Spain’s Rebeka Masarova, marking Sakkari’s third straight first-round exit at a Grand Slam following a similar result at the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year. During a changeover in the match, Sakkari noted a peculiar smell to the chair umpire.
“It was weed,” she said after the match. “The smell, oh my gosh.”
Sakkari said she “smelled it yesterday in practice, too” and attributed the odor to a nearby park. Sakkari’s match was played on Court 17, an open-air stadium where neighbors can be at a park outside the confines of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
“We can’t control it, it’s a back park and people can do whatever they want,” she said.
Despite the distinctive smell, Sakkari didn’t blame her performance on it: “I was not affected by this smell in any way. It was just a comment, it has nothing to do with the match… It’s irrelevant. You don’t think about it, all you care about is winning the match. I didn’t pay much attention.”
Last year, Australian Nick Kyrgios similarly complained about the smell of marijuana following a second-round victory at the 2022 US Open, saying he was asthmatic and the smell could affect his breathing.
“When I’m running side to side, I’m struggling to breathe,” he said at the time. “Probably not something I want to be breathing in in between points.”