Barbora Krejcikova, new gem among Czech tennis stars

Prague (AFP) –


Long hailed as a doubles specialist, Barbora Krejcikova is now making a splash in the French Open singles, the third Czech player in as many years to reach the semi-finals in Paris.

She is just another modest star in a long line of young Czech women who have made the semi-finals or better at Roland Garros in the past decade.

Petra Kvitova reached that stage in 2012 and last year, Karolina Pliskova in 2017, while Lucie Safarova lost the 2015 final and Marketa Vondrousova finished runner-up in 2019.

"The background and the supply in Czech women's tennis is really very, very good," says Vladislav Savrda, a former player and coach and now manager of the Prague-based CLTK tennis club.

The Czech Republic, which has won six out of the last nine Fed Cups, now has 10 players in the WTA top 100.

"They are good examples that naturally make parents take their daughters to tennis schools. They prefer tennis to figure skating or gymnastics," Savrda told AFP.

"Football and ice hockey are big phenomena in the Czech Republic, but of course they don't interest the girls so much," he added.

- 'The right mindset' -

Krejcikova has won two Grand Slam titles in doubles with Katerina Siniakova -- the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018.

In Paris, they have reached the doubles semi-finals after seeing off compatriots Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova in the last eight.

Savrda said Krejcikova's singles breakthrough in Paris was somewhat unexpected, despite her recent victory at the WTA tournament in Strasbourg.

"She has always been the absolute top in doubles, but this is a surprise I guess," said Savrda.

"So what? She is simply coming of age," Jan Kodes, the 1970 and 1971 French Open champion, said in an interview with the DNES broadsheet.

"She needed to grow up, mentally above all. She had to find the right mindset," added Kodes, who also won Wimbledon in 1973.

Krejcikova admitted she had suffered a severe bout of nerves before her match with Sloane Stephens in the fourth round.

"Half an hour before the match, I sat in a locked room and cried and felt terrible," she said.

Then she went and saw Stephens off 6-2, 6-0.

- 'Just a label' -

After beating American teenager Coco Gauff in the quarter-final, she praised her patience.

"I'm not very good at that, but I knew that if I work hard and if I'm patient, I'll get there and have the chance to play against the best," said Krejcikova.

"I have never wanted to be a doubles specialist, that's just a label I got," added the 25-year-old world number 33. She is ranked seventh in doubles.

Savrda said Czech tennis had a lot of talent to choose from, naming current French Open junior quarter-finalist Linda Noskova and Darja Vidmanova, who lost in the last-16 phase at Roland Garros.

Added to that list were the Fruhvirtova sisters, 14-year-old Brenda and 16-year-old Linda, the 13th-ranked junior who reached the quarter-finals at Charleston in April.

"The sisters were famous for their large training volumes when they were kids," said Savrda.

"If they survive this and retain their passion for tennis, which is always a question, they'll be good too."