NEW YORK, NY, USA - Barbora Krejcikova is no stranger to the glare of a Grand Slam spotlight, but the 23-year-old Czech star is starting to get used to having it all to herself after a tight, two-set win over countrywoman Tereza Smitkova.
"I have a really interesting schedule," she admitted after the 6-1, 7-6(5) win on Tuesday. "I played a lot on clay earlier in the year because I really like the surface. I was doing so well, almost out of nothing, enjoying every single match. I’m just trying to do the same here, and I want to do the same through the end of the year."
Krejcikova and longtime partner Katerina Siniakova - with whom she won, among other titles, the US Open girl's doubles crown back in 2013 - dominated the doubles circuit last season, winning back-to-back major tournaments at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, finishing the season as WTA Year-End Co-No.1s at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Looking to put renewed focus on her singles, Krejcikova enjoyed an intense off-season in order to put a new spin on the phrase "double duty." Shortly after she and Siniakova finished runner-up at BNP Paribas Open, Krejcikova rode a 15-match winning streak on the ITF Pro Circuit, capturing a fourth singles title on that level shortly before rejoining her partner at Wimbledon.
"It’s fun, and I actually really like it. You’re playing Grand Slams, WTAs, the big tournaments, seeing all the top players, so you learn a lot there. Then you go to the smaller ones and see different people, which is almost better because you have much tougher conditions and that has its own challenges. That’s what I’ve really liked about it this year."
Krejcikova is fresh off a Rogers Cup win with Siniakova, and as a perennial favorite for either doubles title - she began 2019 with an Australian Open mixed doubles victory with Rajeev Ram - guaranteeing the Czech a long stay in Flushing Meadows regardless of how her qualifying bid ends.
"The most important thing is just how much I’ve enjoyed the balance, and that’s helped me have the success."
Closing in on a Top 100 debut after starting the year ranked World No.203, Krejcikova has played just one other major singles main draw, qualifying for Roland Garros last spring, and survived a tricky second set to dispatch Smitkova - a former World No.57 - on Court 10.
"It’s always difficult," she said of facing a Czech opponent. "You’re flying from Europe, from the Czech Republic, and then we’re playing here against each other, which is obviously not nice for the Czech fans.
"That’s how it is, but I think they should change the rules, because this is tough!" she added with a laugh. "There aren’t that many Czech players – only five in the draw – and two of us are playing in the first round. It’s tough for the one losing."
Set to play America's Asia Muhammad for a spot in the final round of qualifying, Krejcikova will have at least one person supporting her from the stands; her mother made her first trip to the United States, and the two plan to visit the Statue of Liberty during the fortnight.
"I really like this tournament, and I do really like New York," she sighed, "but on the other hand, I really don’t like the smell that is everywhere, and the traffic. I’m not staying in Manhattan; I’m renting an apartment in a different place because I prefer to stay a little bit closer, but I’ll go into the city, and show my mom some of the best New York has to offer."