Krejcikova Making Tennis Look Easy At Australian Open

Barbora Krejcikova (photo: Wendell Teodoro / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 24, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

There’s a sense of joy every time World No. 4 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic wins a tennis match. Lately, she’s been winning quite a few of them.

After beating two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-2, 6-2, in just 84 minutes on a sun-baked Rod Laver Arena Sunday afternoon, the victory placed the reigning French Open champion Krejcikova into her third quarterfinal in four Grand Slam events she’s entered as a singles player. She’s already accomplished herself as a champion doubles partner with fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova, adding crowns at Roland Garros and the WTA Finals to their portfolio of titles last year.

At this year’s Australian Open, Krejcikova has juggled competing in both singles and doubles with equal success. She and Siniakova have been moving through the doubles draw on her days off from playing singles.

“Oh, my god, I’m extremely happy that I won today,” the 26-year-old Krejcikova smiled during her on-court interview with Casey Dellacqua Sunday after beating Azarenka, soaking up the moment with a hint of laughter. “Like I was just doing everything to get this win, and I was really preparing for this a dream like this, to play on such a court, and to play a champion. It’s hard find words.

“I felt Vika was really a favorite to win this match. So I was just really enjoying the match and just trying to prepare for my best tennis, and I was happy I was able to do that.”

Indeed, during her on-court interview, there was joy in the 5-foot-10-inch Krejcikova’s facial expressions and in her sense of delight in sharing her inner thoughts with Dellacqua, like a close and best friend – and by extension, the appreciative crowd assembled in Rod Laver Arena, too. Everyone was in a happy mood, thanks largely to Krejcikova, and Dellacqua did her part to put the the Czech star at ease during their on-court interview.

Thought her first four singles matches, Krejcikova has dropped just one set. It happened in her third-round win over No. 26 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Overall, she’s off to a 7-1 start to the new season, which has included reaching the final of the Sydney Tennis Classic in the run up to the Australian Open. Last year, Krejcikova enjoyed a remarkable breakout season. She compiled an impressive 45-19 win-loss record – highlighted by her winning the French Open as well as titles at Strasbourg and Prague – and finished with a year-end ranking of No. 5 after reaching a career-high No. 3. It gave her something to build upon this year.

On Tuesday, the fourth-seeded Krejcikova will face unseeded and 51st-ranked Madison Keys of the United States. Krejcikova enters the quarterfinal match as the favorite with hopes of going further than she’s gone before in the Australian Open singles draw.

“I have never actually played her. So, I think It’s just, again, going to be a lot of fun. I hope I’m going to play on a big court again, and I hope we’re going to make a really good show for the fans and they’re going to enjoy it,” Krejcikova said. Indeed, she’ll be on a big court again – Rod Laver Arena – not before 12:30 p.m. local time (2:30 a.m. CET, 1:30 a.m. London, 8:30 p.m. Monday New York).

“I’m really looking forward for that,” Krejcikova added, “because that’s what I really want to do and that’s where I want to be.”

Spoken like someone who’s having fun and making tennis look easy.

Collins reaches second Australian Open quarterfinal 

American 27th seed Danielle Collins advanced to her second Australian Open quarterfinal in four years and third major quarterfinal overall after defeating No. 19 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, Monday afternoon on Rod Laver Arena.

Collins, 28, a two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Virginia, secured the fourth-round victory on her third match-point opportunity with her fifth break of Mertens’ serve after the Belgian committed her ninth double fault.  Her next opponent will be either No. 14 seed Simona Halep of Romania or unseeded Alizé Cornet of France, ranked 61st, who played later Monday afternoon.

Collins has succeed by finding solutions to winning and she’s the third American to reach this year’s Australian Open quarterfinals, joining No. 21 seed Jessica Pegula and unseeded Madison Keys. She hit 45 winners and made 41 unforced errors during the two-hour and 52-minute match – third longest women’s match of the tournament – while Mertens finished with eight aces and 33 winners but committed 29 unforced errors. Collins outpointed Mertens 110-104.

“I was really proud of being able to get the job done and come out on top at the end of the match,” Collins said in an interview with ESPN after her victory. “I did the best that I could.”

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis are hot ticket on the doubles court

Crowd-pleasing Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are thriving off the crowds that have been coming out to watch their doubles matches at the Australian Open.

They garnered a lot of attention when they upset the No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, 7-6 (8), 6-3 on Kia Arena in the second round during the first week of the tournament. They backed that win with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 defeat of the No. 15 seeds Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Ariel Behar of Uruguay, also on Kia Arena.

“Having that crowd support, you’ve seen how much it helps,” said Kokkinakis, a native of Adelaide. “It feels like a party atmosphere out there. When we enjoy ourselves, first and foremost, I think that brings the best focus out of us.”

Pegula’s pick? The Bills, of course!

Jessica Pegula is the daughter of the owners of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League. The Bills played the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL playoff game Sunday night in Kansas City, Mo., which Pegula would have likely attended had it not been for her still competing in the Australian Open. Instead, the No. 21 seed Pegula is through to the singles quarterfinals and will face top seed Ashleigh Barty on Tuesday.

After Pegula’s fourth-round victory over No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari on Sunday afternoon, she was asked by a reporter whom she thought would win the Bills-Chiefs game. Her pick came as no surprise. It was the Bills, of course! (The Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime, 42-36.)

Fashionable on the court

Do real men wear llamas and unicorns? Sure, why not. Just ask Ariel Behar of Uruguay.

Ashleigh Barty and Rod Laver: A gathering of legends

Historic day in Australian Open juniors tennis

Now it can be told

Belgium’s Elise Mertens is an animal lover. So, when she was approached to tell two truths and a lie about which animals she likes, she was very convincing in her answers and, along the way, stumped a few of her fellow pros.

Rafael Nadal: Rafa being Rafa

Who needs a guide book, just ask Madison Keys

AO Pride Day: Love is love

Monday’s Australian Open results

Tuesday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

•At 36 years, 234 days old, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia is the oldest player left in the Australian Open singles draw and third oldest to reach the last 16 at the Australian Open since the tournament shifted to a 128-draw format in 1987.

Simona Halep owns a 15-5 record in Grand Slam fourth-round matches and is an even more impressive 5-1 at Melbourne Park.

“Quotable …”

“My vision from the very beginning was to bring serve and volley back. I’ve had many different people tell me that it’s dead, that it’s not going to be efficient or effective today.

“I’ve heard many excuses that it was not going to be the best style for me, but I had a vision and I believe it’s going to happen.”

Maxime Cressy of the United States, following his 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2 win over Christopher O’Connell of Australia on Saturday.

“You know I enjoy what I’m doing. I love tennis. I think I love it more and more, year to year.”

Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who at age 31 is into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open against 20-year-old Iga Swiatek.

What they’re sharing on social media

Karen Khachanov / Thanksfor the atmosphere …