Wimbledon 2024: How Krejcikova turned her torrid season around | Tennis News

Wimbledon 2024: How Krejcikova turned her torrid season around | Tennis News

Mumbai: Across two months in four tournaments leading up to the French Open, Barbora Krejcikova lost four singles matches in a row. Over the last week at Wimbledon, she has won five. Things can change quicky in tennis; even though this season tested every ounce of the Czech’s patience.

Czech Barbora Krejcikova celebrates after defeating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday. (AP)
Czech Barbora Krejcikova celebrates after defeating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday. (AP)

Krejcikova, seeded 31st, entered her first Wimbledon singles semi-final defeating 13th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6(4) in the quarter-final on Wednesday in a clinical show of craft and experience. She will need to summon all of that again on Thursday when she takes on the big-serving Elena Rybakina for a spot in the final.

A two-time Wimbledon doubles champion, this is the first time Krejcikova has gone this far in singles at the All England Club. And the first time the 28-year-old has made the singles last four of a Slam since becoming the French Open champion in 2021. She’s been stopped thrice in the quarters since, most recently at this year’s Australian Open that put the former world No. 2 on the brink of a re-entry into the top 10.

Post that, however, she endured a troubled few months on and off the court that dragged her out of the top 30.

After backing up the run in Australia — she lost to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka — with another quarter-final in Abu Dhabi, Krejcikova was sidelined with a back injury. Just being able to get out of her bed and go for walks took days, and some more to gently start training. Just as she started to gradually hit her strides again, she was struck down by a severe bout of flu.

For a player who doubles up her volume of tennis competing in both singles and doubles on the WTA tour and in Slams, not being able to get on court for more than two months was unusual. The bright side of that dull phase was getting the rare chance to chase her hobbies, like gardening and cooking. Her comeback dish, though, took some time to put together. She lost four matches on the trot across clay-court events in Stuttgart, Madrid, Strasbourg and Paris. From early February to late May when she exited the French Open, Krejcikova hadn’t experienced the feeling of winning a match.

“It’s tough because you see all the girls and they’re playing well. They’re going deep in tournaments and in the beginning when you’re coming back, it’s not really happening for you. You need to take more time and be more patient, which is difficult because you see the girls doing well,” Krejcikova told WTA Insider last month.

Krejcikova finally got the W she craved moving to grass in Birmingham, where she won two matches. That was again followed by two losses. Coming into this Wimbledon, therefore, few gave her the odds of digging a deep run.

“It was a very, very difficult period. It was actually super difficult even before this tournament,” Krejcikova said on court after her win on Wednesday. “There have been many doubts from inside but also from the outside world, but I’m super happy that I never give up.”

Krejcikova’s showed her experience and ability to adapt tactically in the clash of the former French Open champions. Ostapenko had a 5-2 record against the Czech, beating her in their previous three encounters. On the greens of London, Krejcikova changed things up. Instead of trying to win the baseline battle with the powerful Ostapenko, Krejcikova slowed the pace of the rallies off her racquet. Out came the backhand slices, floating forehands, chips and blocks, and off it threw Ostapenko’s ball-striking rhythm. It helped that her serving was superior (she won 81% points on the first serve), and the net play flawless courtesy her doubles game.

Krejcikova’s style of play could also ask similar questions of the big-hitting Rybakina, who was clinical in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Elina Svitolina in the other quarter-final. Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, is now the frontrunner for the title, but hasn’t beaten Krejcikova in their two meetings.

Djokovic gets walkover

Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, was given a free pass to the semi-final after his last-eight opponent, Australian Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury. It gives the seven-time champion, who also had a kinder draw, an extra day off before the men’s semis on Friday.

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