Last September, Barbora Krejcikova played three ITF W25 events in the Czech Republic: Prague, Frydek Mistek and Prerov. In one month’s work, she won only five matches and a total of $1,752 – not even enough to make expenses.
When those Czech cities and results were recited Wednesday afternoon, Krejcikova interrupted.
“Eccchhh!” she said in an interview from Indian Wells. “Don’t remind me of that. I didn’t do well there. I don’t want to think about it anymore.”
And then Krejcikova, who Saturday makes her main draw debut at the BNP Paribas Open, proceeded to do more than just think about it. She talked through what became the turning point of her ascendant career.
It came after a loss in Prague and during the two-hour drive back home to Brno.
“To be extremely honest, I was really disappointed with myself,” Krejcikova said. “I was on my phone with my coach [Ales Kartus]. And I was just telling him like how bad, how I felt about the way I lost and how bad my attitude was.
“And I was like, 'I don’t want to have this feeling ever again.’ So we started to talk about how things can get better. Yeah, from there I was slowly trying to put the things that we were talking about into the practices and into the matches. It all happened in two weeks.”
It wasn’t a physical adjustment or a change in strategy.
“No,” Krejcikova said. “It wasn’t really about tennis. It was more about my attitude. To be more positive, to be nicer to myself. Not to put too much pressure on myself. It was something that was holding me back.”
She came into the fall version of 2020 Roland Garros ranked No.114, but inside she already felt different. Krejcikova won three matches in Paris – tripling her previous career total. One year later, she has produced a series of impressive achievements. She is:
- The 2021 French Open champion, along with two other major titles – in doubles with Katerina Siniakova, also in Paris, and mixed doubles with Rajeev Ram at the Australian Open.
- An Olympic gold medalist (with Siniakova) in Tokyo.
- A sterling 43-13 for the year; only Ons Jabeur (44) has more WTA match wins.
Krejcikova is ranked No.5 among WTA singles players, No.3 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. She’s the only player already qualified for year-end singles and doubles.
When told that people in tennis were having a tough time wrapping their heads around what she’s accomplished, Krejcikova laughed for the first of a dozen times.
“Yeah,” she said, “me too. Me, too. It’s very difficult to process it.
“Every time I step on court, I just try to improve things. Really, that’s it. That’s how I try to handle the whole situation.”
Have the results surprised her?
“One hundred percent,” she said. “One hundred percent. Like, I didn’t expect this. Nobody expected this – not my coach, my fitness trainer, nobody back home, not my family.
“Yeah, I surprised everybody, and I surprised them in a good way.”
The year began inauspiciously for Krejcikova in singles. She was 5-4 in her first five events, including a second-round departure at the Australian Open. But in early March, her new, optimistic game was a revelation in Dubai, where she entered ranked No.63.
“At that moment, was just like praying to get into the main draw,” she said, “because I didn’t want to play qualies. So when I got into the main draw, I was like, ‘Oh, OK, perfect. Everything else is a bonus’ – and I got to the finals.”
She surprised No.25-ranked Maria Sakkari in the first round and a pair of Grand Slam champions, Jelena Ostapenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova, in the next two. After defeating Anastasia Potapova and Jil Teichmann, she fell in a competitive final to Garbiñe Muguruza.
After the transition to clay, Krejcikova split six matches going into Strasbourg – and, at the age of 25, proceeded to win the first WTA title of her career. Unseeded in Paris, she defeated Elina Svitolina, Coco Gauff, Sakkari and, in the final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I got to Paris, won my first Slam,” Krejcikova said, trying to sound matter-of-fact before bursting into giggles again. “Made my singles debut at Wimbledon, you know the story, won another title, in Prague.”
Krejcikova would win 15 straight matches at Strasbourg, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, before losing to World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round.
In an era when the youngsters are asserting themselves – three teenagers have won majors in the past three years, from Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open) to Iga Swiatek (2020 French Open) to Emma Raducanu (2021 US Open) – Krejcikova feels like a late bloomer.
She could care less. What’s her proudest achievement?
“Everything,” Krejcikova said. “Like it’s unreal. I don’t know, it’s really hard to actually understand where I am – because I don’t feel that way."