Krejcikova Playing Out Of Her Comfort Zone, Winning Solo

WASHINGTON/LINZ, November 14, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Through much of her tennis career, Barbora Krejcikova has been a standout doubles player. Along with her fellow Czech Republic doubles partner, Katerina Siniakova, Krejcikova steadily rose from a junior titlist to a Grand Slam champion to become No. 1 in the WTA doubles rankings two years ago. They did it together through hard work and dedication.

Just how good were Krejcikova and Siniakova? Back in 2013, they won the French Open girls’ doubles, the Wimbledon girls’ doubles and the US Open girls’ doubles titles together, and reached the final at the Australian Open girls’ doubles, coming oh-so-close to completing a calendar year Grand Slam. That same year, Krejcikova also won the European Junior Championship U18 in both singles and doubles. Then, in 2018, Krejcikova and Siniakova won both the French Open and Wimbledon women’s doubles titles and attained the World No. 1 ranking in October 2018. For an encore, in 2019, Krejcikova partnered with American Rajeev Ram to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title and defending her title this year alongside Nikola Mektic of Croatia. All together, Krejcikova has won six doubles titles in her career.

Now, in a year in which tennis was interrupted by a global health pandemic for five months, Krejcikova, 24, made her mind up she didn’t want to be labeled as just a doubles specialist. So, she decided to do something about it. The talented Czech born in Brno began to focus her energy and attention on playing singles.

Since the WTA’s relaunch, the 5-foot-10-inch right-handed Krejcikova has compiled a credible 15-6 win-loss record in all competitions. Mind you, she didn’t stop playing doubles with Siniakova altogether. They’ve teamed together this year in seven tournaments going 18-4, reaching the three semifinals since August – plus two more semifinals earlier this year after winning a title in Shenzhen at the start of 2020. What happened along the way is Krejcikova realized she’s got talent playing solo – as well as in tandem – and has worked diligently to further develop and sharpen her singles skillset. She’s never won a WTA Tour-level singles title – and it’s been three years since reaching a singles final – but it hasn’t kept her from trying.

With the 2020 WTA season coming to a close this weekend in Linz, Austria, Krejcikova is making the most of her opportunity in the final tournament of the season, the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, on an indoor hardcourt. Ranked a career-best 74th, she’s into the semifinals against No. 1 seed and World No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. They will face off Saturday afternoon in the second semifinal after No. 2 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium (ranked 21st) plays No. 4 seed and 33rd-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia.

After Krejcikova’s 6-3, 6-1 quarterfinal win over 92nd-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus Friday afternoon, she spent a few moments talking to reporters virtually in both Czech and English. Krejcikova’s quiet but friendly personality was evident as she spoke fluently in both languages.

“I’m really happy,” she said. “This means a lot to me that I’m even able to be here and able to play. It’s obviously very difficult with everything happening in the world right now. I’m just really fortunate to be able to compete, to have fun, and to enjoy tennis.”

At the beginning of 2020, Krejcikova was ranked 135th in singles after a career-best No. 115 in July 2019. This week, her ranking has risen to new heights following a steady improvement since the relaunch of the WTA Tour in August. In her home country, she’s the Czech Republic No. 9 in singles, part of a very talented generation of Czech women that includes World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and World No. 8 Petra Kvitova.

Now, if there’s a tournament, count on Krejcikova to be in the singles main draw – whether by direct entry or through qualifying. From Prague to Roland Garros to Ostrava, she entered both singles and doubles. This week in Linz, it’s singles only. During the lead up to Roland Garros, Krejcikova detoured to play singles in a trio of $25K clay-court tournaments spread through the Czech Republic in Prague, Frydek Mistek and Prerov.

“My ranking is improving, which is excellent for me,”Krejcikova told Tennis TourTalk. “I’ve always been dreaming of being in the Top 100 as we talked in Ostrava. I’m going even higher and higher up now, which is very prestigious for me.”

A highlight of the pandemic-interrupted season for Krejcikova came when she reached the fourth round in singles at the French Open. She garnered three wins before losing a tough three-set match to Nadia Podoroska during the Argentine’s celebrated semifinal run. In doubles, she and Siniakova reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic.

“It was a really tough season, but when I was home, I tried to put a lot of work into my tennis, both physically and mentally,” Krejcikova said. I’m really happy that all that work is paying off right now.”

Following Roland Garros, Krejcikova attained a career-best ranking of No. 85, which she has since surpassed by 11 spots. By the end of the tournament, her year-end ranking should place her inside the Top 70.

As Krejcikova’s virtual interview neared its conclusion, she reflected for this reporter the challenge of being able to balance her desire to improve her singles play with maintaining her stature as a doubles champion. “I’m in a position where I’ve never been,” she said. “In the past, I played a lot of doubles and wasn’t able to get nearly as far in singles where balance was even a question. I’m sure I’ll find the answer next year, because I really want to play singles and doubles. So, let’s see how I can manage it.”