For Barbora Krejcikova, Tennis Grew on Her

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She archetypal played for fun, but she has gone connected to triumph the French Open and is fractional of a formidable doubles team.

Barbora Krejcikova returning the shot  to  Maria Sakkari of Greece during their semifinal lucifer  astatine  the French Open successful  June.
Credit...Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Nov. 5, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic ne'er dreamed of a pro tennis career.

She did not wallpaper her chamber with posters of large Czech players, deed balls against a partition precocious astatine nighttime portion pretending she was playing lucifer constituent astatine Wimbledon oregon walk hours arsenic a 7-year-old moving retired successful the gym. She did once, however, aft winning a section inferior tournament, person an Andre Agassi promotional poster, but does not retrieve what she did with it.

“I ever loved tennis, ever wanted to play, but lone played for fun,” Krejcikova said successful a video speech past month. “I lone realized later, erstwhile I was 16 oregon 17 and playing inferior slams, that this was thing that I would emotion to do. That I wanted to beryllium successful the aforesaid locker country arsenic the superstars and play against them someday.”

Three years ago, Krejcikova was ranked extracurricular the world’s Top 200 successful singles, but reached No. 1 successful doubles with her countrywoman Katerina Siniakova. Now she is ranked a career-high No. 3 successful singles and is the archetypal subordinate since different chap Czech, Karolina Pliskova successful 2016, to suffice for the WTA Finals successful singles and doubles. Pliskova volition besides vie successful the event, successful Guadalajara, Mexico, which makes 2 of the 8 singles players Czech.

Krejcikova qualified by winning the French Open successful June and reaching the quarterfinals astatine the United States Open and the circular of 16 astatine Wimbledon.

“What happened this season, it’s truly hard to picture it,” Krejcikova said. “I mean, it’s conscionable perfect. It was this astonishing play and truly my large breakthrough. I’m truly gladsome that things went the mode that they went.”

Krejcikova, 25, is the latest successful a agelong enactment of large Czech women tennis players. Vera Sukova reached the Wimbledon last successful 1962. Martina Navratilova reached 2 large finals portion representing Czechoslovakia successful 1975, past won 18 majors, including 9 Wimbledons, aft she defected to the United States.

Hana Mandlikova, Jana Novotna and, much recently, Petra Kvitová, are each large champions, and Pliskova, who reached the last astatine Wimbledon this twelvemonth earlier losing to Ashleigh Barty, was ranked No. 1 successful 2017. Sukova’s daughter, Helena, won 14 majors successful doubles.

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The Czech Republic won the Fed Cup six retired of 8 years, from 2011 to 2018. Krejcikova made the team, playing doubles successful 2018 and ’19. She made her singles debut successful the competition, present renamed the Billie Jean King Cup, successful Prague past week.

“There is lone 1 crushed that truthful galore Czech players person been successful, and it’s due to the fact that the coaches determination each thatch bully technique,” said Mandlikova, victor of 4 majors successful the 1980s earlier she served arsenic the manager of the 1998 Wimbledon victor Novotna who, successful turn, became Krejcikova’s mentor. “Sometimes that takes a small longer to develop, but it stays with you for your full life.”

Krejcikova was not chartless arsenic a junior. At 17 she won the 2013 European Junior Championships successful singles and doubles. The aforesaid year, she and Siniakova captured inferior doubles titles astatine the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Still playing unneurotic connected the WTA Tour, the brace won the French Open and Wimbledon successful 2018 and the French this year. They besides won a golden medal astatine the Olympics successful July. This is the 3rd clip they person qualified for the WTA Finals, wherever they were runners-up successful 2018. Krejcikova is besides a three-time Australian Open mixed doubles winner.

“I retrieve erstwhile we played the Australian Open successful 2020, she was successful qualifying for singles and was ranked similar 120, 130 successful the world,” said Nikola Mektic, fractional of the satellite No. 1 doubles team. “To beryllium Top 5 present is simply a large accomplishment for her. And she inactive keeps playing doubles and mixed, truthful hats disconnected to her.”

Krejcikova has been trying to amended her singles game. From 2014 to 2019, she played the qualifying tournaments astatine the 4 majors 16 times, advancing to the main gully lone once. She trained for respective years astatine the TK Agrofert Prostejov, the aforesaid nine wherever Kvitova trained.

“Petra is simply a legend,” Krejcikova said. “I utilized to ticker her a lot, and I ever wished that I could deed immoderate balls with her. But past we were connected the Fed Cup squad together, and present I person a antithetic perspective. It’s conscionable crazy.”

Kvitova said she believed that doubles occurrence had made Krejcikova a amended singles player. “It’s the assortment of her crippled and however she is seeing it from the doubles arsenic well,” said Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon winner. “She has a footwear service excessively which not galore players have. And she has driblet shots, slice, topspin, service and volley, whatever, it’s each there.”

In January 2014, erstwhile she had conscionable turned 18 years old, Krejcikova and her mother, Hana Krejcikova, knocked connected the doorway of Novotna’s location successful Brno, looking for advice. Novotna agreed to enactment with Krejcikova.

“I would accidental that the transportation to her was a immense guiding airy for me, and I truly admit that she gave maine her clip and wanted to assistance maine and not idiosyncratic else,” Krejcikova said of Novotna, who died of crab astatine property 49 successful 2017. Because of Novotna, Krejcikova has go progressive with the WTA’s Aceing Cancer campaign.

“Even erstwhile everyone other was successful the Top 100 and I was playing I.T.F.s [International Tennis Federation tournaments] and qualifying, she ever told me: ‘Be patient, you’re going to beryllium similar me. Keep improving, and you’ll get determination 1 day.’ And, retired of nowhere, I’m here.”

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