This month, the WTA Editorial team is profiling a selection of up-and-coming names to look out for in 2023.
Sara Bejlek had just wrapped up a practice session with 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova. It might be the offseason, but Bejlek understands success won't come without hard work.
"This is for me really good, because I can practice with the best girls in Czech," Bejlek said. "And it's getting me better and better. I see that it's going up and up, and I'm really excited."
Bejlek, 16, is reaping the benefits as part of the future generation from the Czech Republic, a nation which has been at the forefront of women's tennis for the past five decades.
Her ranking rose more than 200 spots this season. Currently sitting at No.179, Bejlek, a left-hander, is the second-youngest player in the Top 200.
Her teenage countrywomen, Linda Fruhvirtova, Linda Noskova and Brenda Fruhvirtova are also inside the Top 200, as they march forward together as a Czech new wave.
"It's good to see the other girls, they are growing up [too]," Bejlek said. "So it's pushing me, and it's good.
"At the start of the year, my coach was like, 'If we're going to be in [Top] 200, it's going to be perfect.' ... So, now I'm happy that [I'm around] 170. It's really good for me and for the whole team to work and everything."
Beginning the year ranked No.380, Bejlek's rise started during the clay-court swing, where she won three ITF Challenger titles. She also played Junior Roland Garros, where she made the singles semifinals and won the doubles title alongside another Czech teen, Lucie Havlickova.
"I like clay courts," Bejlek said matter-of-factly. "At the start of the year, we were like, 'Yeah, we'll play some tournaments on hard.' And then we were like, 'No, we are going to play on clay.'
"I was just hoping that it was going to be like this, and it was. And right now I'm so happy that I played there, because these tournaments, I think that they grow me up."
Bejlek's growth put her into qualifying at a Grand Slam for the first time, on the grass of Wimbledon. "I was, like, shocked when I came there," she said. "I saw all the players who are the best ones. So I was happy and shocked. But, well, a little bit sad because I wasn't in the main club."
If Bejlek was slightly disappointed she did not get a taste of a main draw at Wimbledon, she didn't have to wait much longer. At the US Open, Bejlek beat former Top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic, Priscilla Hon and Heather Watson in the qualifying to make her Grand Slam main-draw debut.
"Now, I need to thank all my team because this is [due to] the work we were working on," said Bejlek, who was the youngest player in the 2022 US Open. "My whole team, coach, fitness coach, my parents, of course.
"This was amazing. To see all the players there, like Serena, Rafa, it was really good. And I've been for the first time in the USA, so I was enjoying every minute when I've been there."
Bejlek now focuses on 2023, as she has been hitting the gym during the offseason in advance of her scheduled first tournament in Canberra. She is also enjoying time with her family at home while she relaxes by listening to the best music of 2022 playlist on Spotify.
Bejlek hopes to continue incorporating more forward movement into her game. "I think that when I was at the start of the year, I was just playing from baseline, and now I'm trying to go for some volleys."
"I think I need to work harder and more," Bejlek said. "Last year, I was like, 'Yeah, I will go on the court and I will just play.' But this year, I feel that I can be better every day. And that's for me the best thing I think I can do. And I'm getting ready for Australia."
Bejlek's ranking is high enough at the moment where she is projected to be entered into the Australian Open qualifying for the first time.
"I was just sleeping and dreaming that I will see Melbourne," the teen said with a laugh.
That dream should soon become a reality.