Barbora Krejcikova, on a Roll, Is a Contender at the U.S. Open

Barbora Krejcikova missed out on final yr’s U.S. Open when the qualifying draw was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she performed small tournaments in her native Czech Republic in hopes that she may earn sufficient rating factors to maneuver nearer to her objective of breaking into the WTA high 100 singles rankings for the first time.

Krejcikova cracked the high 100 final October, however that was solely the starting. This yr, she will not be solely enjoying the U.S. Open, she’s ranked in the high 10, transferring from afterthought to juggernaut.

Beginning with a WTA title in Strasbourg in May, Krejcikova is on a 28-Three roll, which included a beautiful run to the French Open title, and one other WTA title in July in Prague. Her three losses in that point got here at Wimbledon and Cincinnati to top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who was the eventual champion at each occasions, and to eventual gold medalist Belinda Bencic at the Olympics.

“It feels good, for sure,” Krejcikova stated in an interview. “I’m still feeling like I’m dreaming, but I’m also improving with every single match. I’m just very happy that I can play all the big tournaments, and get to see all the big players, to learn from them a lot and have a chance to play against them. All of this is something very special, and I’m just extremely happy it’s happening.”

The eighth-seeded Krejcikova will face the ninth-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth spherical on Sunday, the first Grand Slam match between two girls ranked in the WTA high 10 since the 2020 Australian Open (Muguruza is ranked 10th).

Muguruza, who beat Krejcikova in March in Dubai and misplaced to her final month in Cincinnati, known as her steep ascent “quite shocking,” and stated she may already sense a distinction in Krejcikova’s recreation and angle. “She has way more confidence now after winning a slam,” Muguruza stated. “I can feel it in her shots.”

Krejcikova, 25, stated that her work ethic modified and sharpened throughout the pandemic, when she pushed herself to do extra health, physiotherapy, and restoration work than she had earlier than.

“I had more time, so I spent more time with my coach,” Krejcikova stated. “I started to be a little more professional. I didn’t expect that it’s going to help, but as I see it right now, it’s helping and I’m moving forward. That’s where I get the craziness in my head saying ‘OK, you’ve got to go again, you’ve got to go again.’”

Krejcikova stated that “craziness” has led to a single-mindedness about her craft. “I just work really hard, and I dedicate everything to tennis,” she stated. “All my focus is around tennis, around the things about tennis. Tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis. Even sometimes my family says I have to stop at some moments, but I’m at this stage where I’m playing this well, and I just want to keep improving. That’s my mentality.”

Simona Halep, who first performed towards Krejcikova 5 years in the past when she was ranked 200th, stated she had at all times acknowledged a robust drive in Krejcikova, on high of her fast fingers and steady demeanor. “She’s a great player, and I think she deserves to be there,” Halep stated. “Every time I saw her in the gym and on the court, she was working super hard. Yeah, credit to her.”

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Krejcikova stated she isn’t positive what saved her from reaching her targets sooner, however stated that she wished to take pleasure in each second now.

“I’m just really happy I’m here,” she stated. “Playing the smaller tournaments, it’s not the similar. Being right here, enjoying Grand Slams, enjoying WTAs, with the ability to play on a huge stage, on a huge courtroom, you can’t actually describe it. You have that feeling in your abdomen while you step on a courtroom and also you’re very nervous and also you don’t know what to anticipate. You simply wish to play your greatest tennis, and also you don’t know in the event you’re going to play your greatest tennis or not.

“Then the first level begins, and for me time stops, and I’m simply there. I’m simply having fun with the second, and I believe throughout that second it’s the place I’m enjoying my greatest tennis. I simply wish to get to this temper, so far. I simply wish to battle for each single level in each single match, as a result of it took me so lengthy to get right here, and who is aware of how lengthy I’m going to be right here? You by no means actually know, so I wish to take each likelihood that I get.”

Krejcikova, who’s ranked second in the WTA year-to-date rankings behind Barty, stated her subsequent objective is to be thought-about worthy of the sport’s largest phases: the fundamental courts and marquee classes at Grand Slam tournaments.

She stated that regardless of her spectacular outcomes, she doesn’t really feel like a star attraction.

“Right now I don’t feel that even after all that I did, and all that’s happening, I still don’t feel that T.V. wants to see me or the tournaments want to see me,” she stated. “I don’t know why; it doesn’t actually matter. I simply wish to get to that time the place I’m going to play my first spherical on a enormous courtroom, and there might be individuals who wish to see me.

“I’ll need them to be entertained, and to do the greatest present for them. I’m not at this level but. My motivation will not be profitable or shedding; my motivation is to get to this stage.”