PRAGUE, May 3, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
With ninth-seeded Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic the only remaining seed of the four semifinalists at the J & T Banka Prague Open on Friday, it remained anyone’s guess who might lift this year’s trophy in the WTA International red clay event.
The 39th-ranked Strycova, unlike the other semifinalists – No. 105 Bernarda Pera of the United States, No. 106 wild card Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic or No. 146 qualifier Jil Teichmann of Switzerland – was the only one of the four who previously had won a WTA singles title. She triumphed in two tour-level tournaments, at Quebec City in 2011 and Linz in 2017.
So it seemed, the former World No. 16 Strycova, who came in with a credible 10-4 win-loss record in Prague – including consecutive semifinal appearances – was a safe bet to book a spot in Saturday’s final, right? Wrong.
Teichmann, 21, who was playing in her first WTA semifinal, apparently didn’t get the memo. Instead, the left-hander played fearless tennis throughout much of her one hour and 16 minute match on Centre Court at TK Sparta Praha on a chilly, 10º C spring afternoon. Teichmann convincingly beat Strycova, 6-3, 6-0, by hitting 22 winners, capturing 74 percent (28 of 38) of her first-serve points, saving all four break points she faced and breaking her opponent four times. Strycova committed 19 unforced errors. It was their first career head-to-head meeting.
What a performance from @jilteichmann !
— WTA (@WTA) 3. Mai 2019
Like Teichmann, Muchova has made the most of her opportunity by stringing together four straight wins to reach her first WTA final. In Friday’s first semifinal, Muchova beat Pera, 6-2, 7-5, in one hour and 32 minutes. It should be noted that it was Muchova, 22, who accepted a wild card into the main draw singles that was declined by soon-to-retire fellow Czech Lucie Safarova in order to focus on doubles.
Muchova hit 23 winners – the last one coming at 5-6, 0-15, on a lob volley at the net that sailed over Pera’s head and landed in – and the American was undone by 27 unforced errors. Pera’s serve was broken five times and she was able to convert just two of 10 break-point opportunities against Muchova.
Muchova’s win in just her seventh tour-level main draw ensured there would be at least one Czech in Saturday’s final, a streak that has held firm since the Prague Open returned to the WTA Tour in 2015. Another thing is certain, now. Come Saturday, between two unseeded players, there will be a first-time WTA singles champion.
Unseeded Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia won their first doubles title together by beating the No. 1 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic, 4-6, 7-5, 10-7.
WC-Karolina Muchova d. Bernarda Pera, 6-2, 7-5
Q-Jil Teichmann d. No. 9 Barbora Strycova, 6-3, 6-0
Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova d. No. 1 Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke, 4-6, 7-5, 10-7
Saturday’s order of play
Centre Court / From 11 a.m.
WC-Karolina Muchova vs. Q-Jil Teichmann