Marie Bouzkova: ‘I’m Happy We Can Play’

WASHINGTON, August 12, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Forty-eighth-ranked Marie Bouzkova is the only Czech Republic player in a crowded field of Americans playing at the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Ky., this week, the first WTA tournament on U.S. soil since March.

Yet, Bouzkova feels right at home in the United States. That’s because she and her family moved from Prague to Bradenton, Fla., when she was age 10 to train at the Bollettieri Academy and stayed. She made a splash in 2014 by winning the US Open girls’ singles title, then made her WTA debut in 2015. She’s still seeking her first WTA tour-level title.

Now at age 22, Bouzkova is happy to be back on court playing competitively following the five-month lockdown of the WTA and other pro tours because of the coronavirus pandemic. She’s got her good luck charm with her, too, a giant water bottle that’s been by her side on the bench for 10 years.

When she’s not engaged in playing tennis, Bouzkova can be found hard at work studying towards a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana University East. She enjoys listening to music by ABBA, Queen and the Beatles, and she’s fluent in Czech, English and Spanish, and speaks some German, too.

“I was doing summer semester and took more classes,” Bouzkova admitted Monday during a Zoom video press conference, describing how she spent her time away from the WTA tour. “Honestly, I’ve never been so busy these last five months, so much homework.” After the press conference, the smiling Bouzkova was off to class to deliver a speech in her speech class.

During Monday’s first round, Bouzkova clinched her second win over a Top 20 player this season – and both have come against 15th-ranked Johanna Konta of Great Britain. First, in a semifinal-round clash in Monterrey, Mexico – the week before the tour’s suspension – then, the second time this week in Lexington. Her 6-4, 6-4 victory over Konta in two hours and one minute the other day was solid if not spectacular. She won 66 percent of her total points, saved six of seven break points, and outpointed Konta 70-60. Next for Bouzkova is a second-round matchup against 61st-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova on Center Court Wednesday afternoon.

“Today, I felt like I served well when I need to, and I was able to dictate from my serve, and then I just stayed strong in the important moments,” Bouzkova said after the match. The victory over Konta was her 10th in all competitions this year.

“I had expectations because I’ve been practicing well all these months. On the other hand, I knew coming into a real match, maybe I shouldn’t have many expectations. It’s different,” Bouzkova said.

“It is what it is. I was happy the way I played but I can feel I was a little rusty… Now I have the feeling of the conditions of having a normal match, again.”

When she was asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe the atmosphere of playing in front of no spectators, Bouzkova said, “At first it definitely felt like practice. It was dead quiet. The first point of the match, I hit a return winner and there was dead silence. I definitely felt the difference there. I’m happy we can play. It doesn’t matter.”

Simona Halep wins in her return

In her first match since the WTA relaunched its 2020 season, World No. 2 and top seed Simona Halep defeated Polona Hercog in the first round of the Prague Open.

Did you miss it as much as I did?! 🙏

The Way Back Machine — Kim Clijsters, 2003

What they’re saying

• Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis correspondent, writing on Twitter while watching Tuesday’s Serena Williams-Bernarda Pera match from the Top Seed Open: “Weird and un-atmospheric as this is, I still have no hesitation in saying I prefer tour tennis without fans to no tour tennis at all.”

• Simon Cambers, British freelance tennis writer, “According to this, France has extended its ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 to October 1. Could have implications for @rolandgarros?”

• No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka struggled in her opening-round win against Madison Brengle at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, but won 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2. “I was really waiting for tennis to get back,” she said during an on-court interview after her win. “I was just trying to stay in the tournament, stay in the rallies, stay in the game as long as I can, and I think I did everything I could. Of course, I could play better, but I think for the first match, it’s okay.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Naomi Osaka / I’m so bad at mixed doubles …

The Tennis Podcast / If you’ve never seen Coco Gauff before …

Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Happy to accept one of those wild cards …