Tennis Prose



Krejcikova’s Two Year Ascent Began In Tampa, Florida

In the beginning of 2019 Barbora Krejcikova was the reigning Wimbledon and French Open doubles champ and the Australian Open mixed doubles champion. But her singles status was ordinary.

Ranked well outside the top 100 in early 2019, Krejcikova lost in the second round of AO qualies 64 in the third to Maria Bouzkova. After a month break from tournaments, she made the decision to play small ITF tournaments in America, starting in Macon, GA. The Czech woman retired in the semi down 67 03 to Lesley Pattinama Kerkove.

Then a month later in early April, she played Palm Harbor outside Tampa and in her first round match she lost the first set to American Ingrid Neel 75 but eventually prevailed 62 20. In the second round was a 62 62 victory over veteran Sanaz Marand.

I was at this $25,000 tournament with a friend to see the John McEnroe seniors event. After the matches near the clubhouse, I recognized Krejcikova standing with her coach, watching a match. It was later afternoon. We had some conversation and since we had a pleasant connection, I decided to ask if she would do a Biofile with me, which she kindly agreed. She gave a nice Biofile and I hoped she enjoyed it as much as I did and maybe it could give her some kind of spark, as it happens sometimes with certain players and athletes.

She was a no. 1 ranked doubles player in the WTA, with two major titles won in 2018, but she had a quiet, serious aura. It was obvious she wanted to conquer singles too. And she was working hard to do it. She had the aura of a champion, she just need the big results.

In the next round in Tampa, she beat hot American teen prospect Whitney Osuigwe in the QF 62 62 and then another pro journeywoman, Panna Udvardy in the semi 75 62. I drove back for the final on Sunday vs Nicole Gibbs. Krejcikova annihilated the Californian 60 61.

At the end of April she played another ITF in Weisbaden, Germany (birthplace of John McEnroe) and won all five of her matches by dominating scores to win the title. That’s ten wins in a row (and eight in a row since we did the Biofile).

In the first round of Roland Garros qualies 2019 she lost to American Robin Anderson 46 62 15 retired (in messenger she told me had to retire due to illness).

A month later in June she played an ITF in Stare Splavy and won five more matches and the title, that’s 15 of 16 matches won.

In July in Bucharest Krejcikova won two rounds and lost in QF to Martina Di Giuseppe 64 64.

Then in Karlsruhe, Germany she lost to Patricia Maria Tig 63 64 in first round. Next was a first round defeat to Timea Babos 63 62 in Toronto qualies.

At US Open qualies she beat Tereza Smitkova 61 76 but had to retire at 0-1 to Asia Muhammad in the second round.

Krejcikova skipped September, October, November and returned in December for an ITF in Dubai and lost first round to Stefanie Voegele 64 61.

In 2020 Krejcikova qualified for AO with three wins and beat Kaia Kanepi in the main draw in three sets but was ousted by Ekaterina Alexandrova 61 63. She won the mixed doubles Grand Slam with Nikola Mektic, her second in mixed and third major title overall.

Barbora lost first round three tournaments in a row and then suddenly won in June in Macha Lake in Czech, beating her longtime doubles partner Katerina Siniakova 63 64.

Through the pandemic last year she stayed active in Europe and then skipped US Open and reached the round of 16 at French Open, losing to Nadia Podoroska 63 in the third.

In October she qualified in Ostrava, beat Tereza Martincova and then lost to Vika Azarenka 61 in the third.

In November was a semi in Linz, Austria (lost to Sabalenka 6-3 in the third).

Her last event in 2020 was a QF loss to Sorana Cirstea 63 in the third.

This year at AO she beat Saisai Zheng in main draw and then lost to Alexandrova again 63 76. She did win the mixed doubles in AO for the third year in a row, this time with her partner of 2019 Rajeev Ram.

In Doha, Barbora lost in qualifying to Cristina Bucsa in straight sets.

Then in Dubai she made it to the final, losing to the red hot Garbine Muguruza 76 63, beating Kuznetsova, Ostapenko, Teichmann and Potapova en route.

The quality singles results were adding up and so was Krejcikova’s confidence. She was on the verge of a breakthrough in singles.

In Miami, Krejcikova beat Blinkova but lost to Iga Swiatek.

In Istanbul she beat local hero Cagla Buyukakcay before falling to Ana Bogdan.

In Madrid, she lost 1R to Paula Badosa 61 75.

In Rome she beat Zheng and Kenin and then lost to Swiatek, 63 67 57. That result was the omen of good things to come. It showed Krejcikova could go toe to toe with the defending French Open champion.

Then in Strasbourg she won the title, beating Cirstea in the final 63 63 and also finally avenging Alexandrova in the QF 76 61.

At Roland Garros 2021, Krejcikova got off to a rocky start, losing her first set to Krystina Pliskova 57 64 62. But that match triggered a run, as she rolled through Alexandrova again, then Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff and then semi war with Maria Sakkari 10-7 in the third set tiebreaker.

And today she conquered Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets to win her first singles Grand Slam title. Incredibly, just two years ago Krejcikova was playing minor pro tournaments. Today she put her name into the history books and every sports fan in the world will see her name: Barbora Krejcikova, winner of 2021 Roland Garros…

It was an honor and privilege to see her start her WTA singles success in Palm Harbor, FL just over two years ago. But I have to admit, it’s not a total shock. Some players just stand out …and they command your attention, respect and interest.

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