SINGAPORE, China – Petra Kvitova has lifted the lid on why she feels the Czech Republic has such a vibrant tennis scene, putting it down to the inspiration that “legends” like Martina Navratilova have had on younger generations.
Over the weekend of November 10, 11, the Czechs will attempt to regain the Fed Cup, having won it in five of the last seven years. The USA took the crown in 2017 but the dominant country of the last decade is hopeful of reclaiming it, despite being without WTA World No.7 Kvitova, who has been forced to pull out injured, having been named in the initial squad.
Tennis in the Czech Republic is on a high, though, with a raft of women captain Petr Pala can call upon to replace his star singles player.
Six Czech players find themselves in the Top 100 of the WTA singles rankings, while the nation can boast four players in the Top 10 of the doubles ranking, including joint No.1s Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova.
Speaking to Navratilova during the WTA Finals in Singapore, the two-time Wimbledon champion admitted that she is awestruck by the depth of tennis talent in her country and credited the Prague-born legend as being one of the catalysts for fostering a positive culture for the sport.
“We have so many legends. Tennis has a big history here,” she said.
“Many kids play tennis, which is brilliant to see. We try to look to you and those legends and do better and better. I think we’re doing that well. There are so many in the Top 100. It’s unbelievable that such a small county can have so many players.
“The whole Fed Cup team played in Singapore. Maybe it was because of the parents who pushed us so hard. And we’ve got great coaches as well.”
Navratilova, meanwhile, feels that a positive atmosphere around clubs has been crucial in generating so much success.
The 18-time Grand Slam singles winner said: “You go to the clubs and you just hang out with whoever’s there. You play with whoever’s there, adults, kids, someone who’s your level, somebody better. If all else fails, you go and hit against the wall.
“There’s great coaching and a great support system.”
And Kvitova is optimistic that her country, which has not yet named her replacement in the squad, can secure a sixth title in eight years.
“It will be a full house for sure,” she said. “We’ve got a great team! We’ve had so many successes during the year, so it will be great.”
Navratilova joked: “You could put together two great teams and play each other in the final!”
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the Fed Cup, Kvitova has enjoyed a stellar year.
The 28-year-old led the tour with five titles over the course of the year. She claimed hard court tournaments in St Petersburg and Qatar before enjoying success on the clay in Prague and Madrid. In June, she moved to a 25-7 winning record in finals when she won on the grass of Birmingham.
25 titles! I can't quite believe it 🤭
Thanks so much to everyone in Birmingham for a fantastic tournament 🙌
Also, congratulations to Magda... and to my headband for staying on all week 🤣 pic.twitter.com/ZU4SAS6xMj
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) June 24, 2018
It was a run that capped a remarkable comeback after she missed the first part of the 2017 season following a knife attack, which injured her left hand, and even she admitted that she has been taken aback by her ability to return to the top of the game.
“After everything that happened, I’m so surprised with myself, winning five titles on different surfaces,” she said.
“On clay, the movement is a bit tough for me, but even on that I played great tennis. It was a great season.”
Winning the J&T Banka Prague Open proved a highlight.
“It was great, being in the Czech Republic. It was an amazing match,” she said of her 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu. “Playing in front of a home crowd is always very special. It’s different compared to Fed Cup, but it was still great. It was full, everyone was cheering with me.”
Now she will hope those same fans can inspire her compatriots to another famous victory to keep the cycle of success going.