Barbora Krejcikova pays tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna - UBITENNIS
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Barbora Krejcikova pays tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna



Last October Barbora Krejcikova was inteviewed by the New York Times after her impressive season highlighted by her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open. 


At this year’s Roland Garros Krejcikova lost the first set against Krystina Pliskova in the first round. She then won her following four matches in straight sets against Ekaterina Alexandrova, Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff en route to her first Grand Slam semifinal. Krejcikova fended off a match point before beating Maria Sakkari 7-5 4-6 9-7. 

Krejicikova beat Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 2-6 6-4 in the final of the French Open to become the first Czech woman in 40 years to win Roland Garros to win the Roland Garros singles title. 

Krejcikova was ranked world number 33 in the world and was playing just her fifth main draw in a Grand Slam singles tournament. 

The 25-year-old Czech player followed in the footsteps of her compatriot Hana Mandlikova, who won the French Open in 1981. 

Krejcikova never dreamed of a professional career. After winning a local junior tournament, she received an André Agassi promotional poster, but she does not remember what she did with it. 

“I always loved tennis, always wanted to play, but only played for fun. I did not wallpaper my bedroom with posters of great Czech players, hit balls against a wall late night. I only realized later, when I was 16 or 17 and playing Junior slams, that this was something that I would love to do, that I wanted I wanted to be in the same locker room as the superstars and play against them someday. It’s something I have always dreamed about. Winning here, my first doubles title, then winning the mixed ones. Now I was just telling myself, it would be really nice if I can get the Grand Slam in all three categories. I cannot believe it. It’s unreal that it’s actually happening. A girl from a little city in Czech Republic where we have six courts. My journey is inspiring because nine months ago I was actually out of the top 100. I had the label that I am a doubles player. Nine months later, I am actually a singles Grand Slam champion”, said Krejcikova.

Krejickova started the 2021 season at a career-high of world number 65 in the WTA singles Ranking. Before this season the Brno-native player was known mainly as a doubles player and won two Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon with her partner Katerina Siniakova in 2018. 

Three years ago, Krejcikova was ranked outside the world’s Top 200 in singles, but she reached world number 1 in doubles with Siniakova. 

Krejcikova reached her first WTA 1000 final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last March. She beat Maria Sakkari, Jelena Ostapenko, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Potapova and Jil Teichmann before losing to Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in the championship match. As a result, Krejikova rose to a career-high world number 38.  

Krejcikova beat Sorana Cristea in the final to win her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg. 

Krejcikova reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in her first tournament as a Grand Slam champion, before losing to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty. The Czech player went on to win her third title of the season at the WTA 250 in Prague, breaking into the top 10 of the WTA Ranking for the first time in her career. 

She continued her great period of form during the North American hard-court season, when she reached the quarter final in Cincinnati before losing to Ashleigh Barty in straight sets. Krejcikova beat Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in the fourth round at the US Open to reach her second Grand Slam quarter final before losing to Aryna Sabalenka. 

Krejcikova won 29 of her last 33 WTA matches to qualify for the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. She scored a record of 45 wins to 17 defeats in singles matches and tied for third on tour with three titles. 

Krejicikova reached a career-high number 3 in singles and is the first player to qualify for the WTA Finals in Guadalajra in singles and doubles since Karolina Pliskova.

“What happened this season, it’s really hard to describe it. It’s just perfect. It was an amazing season and really my big breakthrough. I am really glad that things went the way that they went”. 

Krejcikova and her compatriot Katerina Siniakova won five WTA doubles titles in 2021 at the Gippsland Open in Melbourne, the Madrid Mutua Open, Roland Garros and at the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara and the Olympic gold medal beating Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic 7-5 6-1 in Tokyo. 

They beat Karolina and Krystina Pliskova in an all Czech quarter final match, Bernarda Pera and Magda Linette in the semifinal, Bethanie Mattek Sands and Iga Swiatek in the final to claim their second Roland Garros title. Krejcikova became the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same edition of the French Open. 

They also reached the doubles final at the Australian Open before finishing runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in the final. 

Krejcikova went on to become the only player to qualify for both the singles and doubles tournaments at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. Krejcikova and Siniakova won the WTA Finals doubles title, beating Hsieh-Su-Wei and Elise Mertens 6-3 6-4.  

Krjcikova has followed in the footsteps of her compatriots Vera Sukova, who reached the Wimbledon final in 1962, Martina Navratilova, who reached two Grand Slam finals while she was representing Czechoslovakia in 1975 and then she won 18 Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon, after she won to the United States. Petra Kvitova won two Wimbledon titles. Karolina Pliskova reached                   the Wimbledon final before losing to Ashleigh Barty in the championship match. 

Czech Republic won six of the eight Fed Cup Finals from 2011 to 2018. Krejicikova played the doubles matches in two editions of this tournament in 2018 and 2019. She made her singles debut at this tournament, which has now renamed Billie Jean King Cup, in Prague last November. 

Krejicikova won the 2013 European Junior Championships in singles and doubles. In the same year Krejcikova and Siniakova claimed junior titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and at the US Open.

Krejicikova played the qualifying tournaments at the four Grand Slam events 16 times from 2014 to 2019 and advanced to the main draw only once. She trained for several years at the TK Agrofert Prostejov, the same club where Kvitova trained. 

“I used to watch Petra Kvitova a lot, and I always wished that I could hit some balls with her. Then we were on the Fed Cup team together, and now I have a different perspective. It’s just crazy”, said Krejicikova.    

Kvitova believes that doubles success has contributed to make Krejicikova a better singles player. 

“It’s the variety of her game and how she is seeing it from the doubles as well. She has a kick serve too which which not many players have. She has drop shots, slice, topspin, serve and volley, whatever, it’s all there”, said Kvitova. 

Krejicikova and her mother Hana knocked on the door of Jana Novotna’s house in Brno, looking for advice. Novotna, who won the 1998 Wimbledon title, agreed to work with Krejicikova and became her mentor. Novotna died of cancer on 19 November 2017 at the age of 49. Krejikova paid her tribute to Novotna. 

“I would say that the connsection to Novotna was a huge guiding light for me, and I really appreciate that she gave me her time and wanted to help me and not someone else. Even when everyone else  was in the top 100 and I was playing International Tennis Federation tournaments and qulaifying, she always told me: ‘Be patient, you are going to be like me. Keep improving me, and you will get there one day and, out of nowhere, I am here”, said Krejcikova. 

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final



Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 


Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Australian Open: Facing Tsitsipas For World No. 1 Spot May Be Different for Novak Djokovic



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It probably was a good thing that Novak Djokovic wasn’t facing a top opponent in the Australian Open semifinals. Certainly not one the caliber of Stefanos Tsitsipas.


Of course, Tommy Paul did his best. He just isn’t a top ten caliber player.

The American could rally with Djokovic, but when it came time to win the point or game, he  usually was nowhere to be found on the Rod Laver court.


The fact that Tsitsipas is in contention for the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis is enough to ensure that Paul isn’t quite in the league with the Greek superstar.

Djokovic will need to be better than he was against Paul when he steps onto the court to face Tsitsipas on Sunday night in the Australian Open singles final.

There was Djokovic blundering his way through a one-sided 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Paul. The scoreline should have been closer to 3-1-2. But Novak appeared to have all kinds of physical ailments — legs, knees, bandaged hamstring. Or just plain conditioning and breathing hard. You name it.


It was just night time in Melbourne. You wonder what might have happened if Novak had been assigned some daytime duty like everyone else in the tournament. Say, like Tsitsipas had been assigned for his closer than the scores reflex in the Greek’s 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov in Friday’s other semifinal.

Tsitsipas is a real threat to claim the world’s top ranking on Sunday night with a victory over the legend from Serbia. Of course, in the 2021 French Open final, Tsitipsas won the first two sets against Djokovic.

It’s possible. Tsitsipas could come through this time.


Novak was only a shadow of the old Djokovic Friday night. And that was against a player who may never earn a berth in another Grand Slam semifinal.

Of course, Djokovic wasn’t quite as out of it as Rafa Nadal was in the second-round blitzing by Mackenzie McDonald. But Nadal was nursing a hip injury. He may be a different player in Paris in four months.

Djokovic still has all of the big shots and serves he has displayed for much of the last two decades. He just didn’t seem to know where all of those weapons were headed in the semifinals.


Of course, if Novak pulls a solid performance out of his bag of tricks and denies Tsitsipas the world’s top ranking, Djokovic likely would stand in Nadal’s path in Paris to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The task won’t be easy. First, Novak has to take care of business on Sunday night. But with a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title up for grabs, Djokovic may actually look like himself. 

As Novak says, he wants to be known as the best player in the world.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 

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Coach Of Elena Rybakina Dismisses Allegations Of Poor Behavior At Australian Open

Stefano Vukov explains why he believes his actions were appropriate during Rybakina’s semi-final win over Aryna Sabalenka.



Image via AUS Open twitter

The coach of Elena Rybakina has denied accusations that he was berating his player during her clash with Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open by saying he was just doing his job. 


Stefano Vukov was seen multiple times during Rybakina’s semi-final match being highly animated and making a series of critical gestures towards his player when she produced mistakes. The display prompted criticism on social media with former player Laura Robson saying on Eurosport ‘I don’t know how she (Rybakina) copes. He seems to be so negative on the side.”

Croatian-born Vukov has been working with the reigning Wimbledon champion since 2019 and previously coached Anhelina Kalinina. He was briefly a player on the Futures and Challenger Tour before going to America to study. Growing up his family left Croatia when he was a child due to the war and he spent roughly 15 years living in Italy.

“It’s easy to just take clips and then make something controversial. This is part of our sport, it’s normal,” Vukov told Fox Sports Australia when quizzed about his behaviour. 
“There’s 10,000 people out there, to get the attention of the player is definitely not easy and people don’t understand that. I have to scream out something if she’s off track.
“People can interpret that how they want but at the end of the day we’re just doing our job. Coaching is now allowed and she’s using it in the best possible way.”

This year is the first time that coaching is allowed during matches at the Australian Open but it is only allowed if players and coaches are on the same side of the court and there is no hindrance towards their opponent.  

Continuing to hit back at the criticism, Rybakina’s mentor says during the match there are key moments where he needs to remind her of certain tactics. Dismissing suggestions from some that his approach is heavy-handed in any way. 

“I think with all the emotions, sometimes the player doesn’t understand which situation of the match they are, which is absolutely normal,” he said. 
“You know, you’re flowing, you’re into a rhythm, which has happened also yesterday, for example, against Azarenka. A set, 3-1 up, two breakpoints. She stopped playing, Elena, for a couple of games, for example, instead of going for the point a little bit more.
“There are moments we try to remind her, Hey, this is the moment to push. This is the moment to defend.
“It’s normal. There are moments of the match the player doesn’t remember, for example, or in a pressure point, which side to defend more, where to serve more.
“We are there to remind them. So obviously I think that coaching is very important. I think that the player, if the player wants to listen, obviously, they should use it as much as possible, because there is some matches that a few points make the difference. Look at the beginning of yesterday. 3-2 down, two bad choices. That’s it. That’s it. She could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up.
“I don’t know, something like this. Not to be negative, but it’s just our job, right? That’s what we are there for.”

In a previous interview with Tennis Majors last year, Vukov said he and Rybakina clicked together due to ‘his energy against her calmness.’ He also described the world No.25 as  ‘a hardworking perfectionist, which sometimes works against her because sometimes she gets frustrated when things are not perfect.’

Rybakina will play Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final on Saturday. As a result of her run in Melbourne, she will crack the top 10 next week for the first time regardless of how she performs in the final. 

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