Barbora Strycova had her eye set on the Doubles No.1 ranking when her 2019 season got underway, but she never dreamt her path to the top would unfold the way it did at Wimbledon.
Playing in what she told reporters could be her final Wimbledon, the 33-year-old from Plzen went on to defeat four seeded players to make her first major semifinal in singles and then won her first major doubles title with Hsieh Su-Wei. Strycova and Hsieh became the first team since Serena and Venus Williams to win Wimbledon without the loss of a set, and the title launched Strycova to No.1 in the world for the first time.
In the last 12 months, Strycova has won seven titles with two partners, including three of the biggest titles on tour. Teamed up with her good friend Andrea Hlavackova last season, the Czech duo won New Haven, Tokyo, and their biggest title together in Beijing. After starting the season with strong run to the Australian Open semifinals with Marketa Vondrousova, Strycova re-teamed with Hsieh Su-Wei - the two won 2018 Indian Wells together - with near-immediate success.
Strycova and Hsieh won their second tournament after reuniting, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, before winning Madrid, Birmingham, and Wimbledon. Their four titles in just nine tournaments played lead the tour this season. As a result, the team sits at No.1 on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen as the North American hard court season begins.
WTA Insider spoke to Strycova at Wimbledon after her doubles triumph.
WTA Insider: Your first Slam singles semifinal, at your favorite tournament no less, your first major Slam doubles title, and the No.1 doubles ranking. What has your two weeks at Wimbledon meant to you?
Strycova: It means everything I dreamed off. It means something that I really couldn't imagine, but in the back of my head I was dreaming about, and when I was getting older I felt like it can happen. And it just happened!
I am extremely proud of myself and proud of the team I have behind my back. And it's something really special.
WTA Insider: The doubles final just finished and in about an hour you're about to head to the Wimbledon Champion's Dinner. Have you even had the time to process everything that's happened?
Strycova: It is mind-blowing, but I can't really realize it yet because I was so focused these two weeks. So focused on being relaxed, enjoying every moment, that I really didn't want to realize what was going on because then my head would go somewhere else.
So I think when I come back home and I will sleep some in my bed I will enjoy a little bit myself, then I will realize what really happened. Because it's big!
WTA Insider: We think of you as a singles player and you consider yourself a singles player first and foremost. So when did it become a goal of yours to become No.1 in doubles?
Strycova: It was a bigger goal of mine at the beginning of the year. As you said I always considered myself as a singles player, but this year I was like, OK, I want to become No.1 because I can do that.
I have a great partner next to me because without her I would not achieve it because she is something, really. She helped me to be a better person on the court. And we really suit each other. And it's something I also dreamed of and dreams come true.
WTA Insider: You said this week that you've been working on your mental game and this tournament is where you proved to yourself that you could overcome your emotions, which sometimes held you back. You've been working with a mental coach on this, but how does someone actually "work" on their mental game?
Strycova: You train forehand cross, you train serve, and you have to train also your head. And you have to train it every single day and every hour. For example, in the morning I wake up, I train my head for like 20 minutes. And then during the day you always have to check your body with yourself. So you have to check with yourself how you feel.
Tennis players can be very negative people, like, I am very negative. I put myself down a lot. So what I changed was that I didn't do that. I was talking to myself in a good way. I was talking like, no this is good, mistakes happen, and we are not perfect and I just kept saying it to myself and I believed it. And then things got easier.
I didn't change myself at all, but it's a great question because this is the biggest win for me. I found myself. I am really happy with myself, how I work, how I perform on the court mentally, and my attitude.
In these two weeks, I showed myself that I can do it and I can also overcome myself because sometimes I couldn't before and I was losing big matches and this time I won big matches. And this is the biggest win for me.
WTA Insider: Last question for you. What does it mean for you to be No.1?
Strycova: It means that the work I put in, it's paid off. But the feeling of becoming number one is something that -- it's amazing that I can be in my job so good. Especially that happen in Wimbledon, my favorite place, that means everything.