Barbora Krejcikova's hot streak continued on home soil as the No.2 seed captured the Livesport Prague Open title, winning the final over compatriot Tereza Martincova 6-2, 6-0 in just 65 minutes.
Krejcikova fired 26 winners over the 14 games in a dazzling performance to win her third career title, and first on hard courts. That trio of trophies have all come in her past four tournaments. The 25-year-old has now won 20 of her past 21 matches. Her only loss since May came in the fourth round of Wimbledon to World No.1 and eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.
For Roland Garros champion Krejcikova, this week has been an entirely fitting homecoming. She did not drop a set in a title run that culminated in the third all-Czech final in the tournament's history, and has become the sixth home winner of Prague.
Czech support was key all week, Krejcikova said - particularly after an arduous 7-6(2), 6-4 second-round win over Ysaline Bonaventure, after which she spoke about the pressure she felt playing as a Grand Slam titlist. Following that match, she only dropped eight more games in the last three rounds.
"During every single tournament you have one match where things don't go your way, and that was the match with Ysaline," she said. "I couldn't find myself, it was really up and down, and she's a really tricky player. I was struggling. But the most important thing is just to get through somehow, just to fight and win, and I was able to do that. I actually felt that every single day after that I was playing better and better.
"It's easier to play and fight when there are people - Czech people. Normally, if it wasn't in the Czech Republic, I wouldn't play any tournament [this week] because I just felt really tired. But they all wanted to see me, and I felt they gave me so much energy in Paris. They've been enjoying it so much. So I felt I really have to come here and play my best every single day, just so they can see me and see that I'm real. I had to give it back to them somehow.
"That was pretty much my power - the people came to see me, and I didn't want to disappoint them."
One of the Czech champions preceding Krejcikova was her late mentor Jana Novotna. Having won her first title in Strasbourg, the tournament where Novotna captured her second in 1988, Krejcikova's victory marks another parallel with her friend. Novotna won Prague in 1998, the first title after her maiden Grand Slam trophy at Wimbledon that year - a pattern Krejcikova has repeated.
Czech champions in Prague
Radka Zrubakova, 1992
Jana Novotna, 1998
Karolina Pliskova, 2015
Lucie Safarova, 2016
Petra Kvitova, 2018
Barbora Krejcikova, 2021
A handful of backhand errors in the first few games comprised a somewhat nervy start for Krejcikova. But after World No.78 Martincova failed to take advantage of two break points in the second game, Krejcikova settled - and from there on, didn't look back.
From 2-2, Krejcikova rattled off 10 straight games, a passage of play in which almost everything she touched turned to gold. She was able to finish baseline rallies with effortless redirections of the ball, and her touch at net was exquisite.
A sequence of beautiful backhand winners enabled her to dominate the end of the first set, while her forehand was the key shot in maintaining her momentum at the start of the second. There was also some real creativity, including the clever combination of a sliced forehand return followed by a flat winner off the same wing.
Afterwards, Krejcikova was modest in victory.
"I felt as soon as I broke her I felt a little better," she said. "But still, it was pretty tight, the first few games, and I was really happy I actually got the first set. And the second was also tight, we had some deuces. I was just able to convert the big points a bit better. When I got to the 3-0 lead, I felt really confident, and I felt I really had to finish it."
Martincova, who landed 71% of her first serves, had come into the match holding a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Krejcikova. But she was rarely allowed to get her own aggressive game going, tallying only six winners to 13 unforced errors. But the 26-year-old can still take the positives from a first WTA final showing.
Next up for Krejcikova will be the Tokyo Olympic Games - but while she explained how everything has changed for her in a short space of time, she has not set any concrete goals.
"After Strasbourg a lot of things changed," she said. "I felt relieved. That was pretty much the goal for me, something I wanted to get out of this season - to win a 250. And it happened - and after that, I lost all the stress.
"And after Paris everything changed as well. My mental side completely changed. I've achieved everything I ever wanted. So now I just want to go hard, and have fun. For sure I'm working hard to do well, to play big tournaments and big players, but on the other hand I don't really have a big goal.
"I just want to be healthy, and I just want to enjoy and play. If I can do these two things together, I think there is a big opportunity to win another big thing. But I don't put it in my head like that."
Bouzkova, Hradecka complete Czech sweep in doubles
In the doubles event, No.3 seeds Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka completed a trophy sweep for the host nation with a 7-6(3), 6-4 defeat of No.1 seeds Viktoria Kuzmova and Nina Stojanovic.
Bouzkova and Hradecka first played together this April, and in four tournaments their partnership has already netted them two titles (Birmingham and Prague), one runner-up showing (Charleston) and one Grand Slam quarterfinal (Wimbledon). Hradecka has now been crowned Prague doubles champion three times, all with different Czech partners, having previously won with Andrea Sestini Hlavackova in 2008 and Kristyna Pliskova in 2020.
Overall, the title is the 26th doubles trophy of Hradecka's career and the second of Bouzkova's.