Interview with Bára's coach, Aleš Kartus (translated via ChatGPT)
source: Kouč Krejčíkové: Když kulí oči, je v zóně. Dubaj? Cenná jako grandslam | iSport.cz (blesk.cz)
The coach of Krejčíková: "When her eyes widen, she's in the zone. Dubai? As valuable as a Grand Slam."
After an impressive campaign in the Persian Gulf, Barbora Krejčíková had a break this week. She was eager to start training right away, but coach Aleš Kartus had to hold her back. He puts the experience at the Dubai tournament on the same level as the Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros, since "his Bára" defeated the three best players in the world in three days. However, the tennis centrifuge is unforgiving, and on Saturday they flew to the Sunshine Double. In Indian Wells and Miami, Krejčíková will attack the comeback to the top 10.
Can you tell when Bára is in the zone, when everything is going well for her?
"Yes, by the expression on her face. Her eyes are slightly bulging and her mouth is open." (laughter)
How many times did she get into the zone in Dubai?
"Basically, since the moment she saved four match points against Kasatkina, constantly. Against match points, she played very aggressively, was not afraid, and had that expression. After the match, I told her and showed her what she looked like. Since the match with Kasatkina, she always tried to get into the zone as soon as possible, and she succeeded every time, except against Sabalenka in the quarterfinals, where it took her a while because it was really overwhelming for her in the first set." (Krejcikova was losing 0-6, 1-3)
I thought this state arose primarily from the game. Can it also be created psychologically?
"Yes, I am convinced of that. That's what we worked on the most, to get her into the zone as much as possible. That's the basis."
What do you have to do for it?
"In Dubai, she played all the matches from the quarterfinals onwards on the main court, which she loves. But she always played at 7 pm, which means that you have to start working on this mental setting from the shared breakfast and subsequent meeting. This includes the entire program until 7 pm. But I won't reveal any more details, sorry, we'll keep that to ourselves."
You experienced a Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros with Bára in the 2021 season, when only one player from the top ten stood in her way. Now in Dubai, she defeated four top 10 players during the week, including the top three. What is more important to you?
"It's difficult to compare things that are difficult to compare. A Grand Slam tournament lasts two weeks, a 1000-point tournament only lasts one week, so they are two diametrically different tournaments. In a 1000-point tournament, you play every day, while in a Grand Slam, you play every other day. The Grand Slam is complicated because you have to maintain the mental setting for fourteen days, while here it's only a week. That's what makes the 1000-point tournament simpler. On it, the players are calmer, while on the Grand Slam, the nerves march on, and it's much harder to work mentally with the player there. It's like the Olympics, which only happens once every four years. However, in terms of tournament demand, Dubai absolutely surpassed the Grand Slam. When you look at who Bára beat in Paris and who she beat now in Dubai, it's incomparable. When I compare how I feel after these two successes, it's essentially the same. I consider those two titles equal because of whom she defeated."
After winning the Roland Garros, you said that winning a tournament is like a puzzle where everything has to fit together. What fit together in Dubai? After all, before the tournament, Bára lost two close matches to the Russians Kuděrmetovová and Samsonovová, and many did not suggest that such a great success was coming.
"Mind you, but she played well during those two defeats. I told her that she was in great shape and now only a few details were missing and everything would come together. And it came together most of all because she managed to break the match with Kasatkina from four match points down. That's where it all started. I won't explain it in detail, it's just about the mentality. She just needed to get mentally up by winning such a match, which was only a few points away."
And the next day, she faced Petra Kvitová for the first time in her career, whom she dealt a hard loss in the Czech Grand Slam champions' derby, 6-3, 6-2.
"If you remember, if Petra had beaten Kalinina in Australia, the match would have happened a month before at the Grand Slam. I have to say that at the time, I was quite glad that it didn't happen yet, because matches between Czech players are always unpleasant. But in Dubai, I already said that Petra is a huge player, a Czech legend. She's someone I've been a fan of long before I started coaching Bára. So this time, I really wanted to play against her and I was glad it worked out because it would have been a shame if those two hadn't had the chance to compete. This match had a festive feel."
Krejčíková's impressive performances continued until the final, where she upset world number one Iga Świątek (6-4, 6-2). Since becoming the top-ranked player, the Pole has lost only twice to one opponent. Bára. Is an interesting rivalry emerging?
"I don't even feel that because before we flew to Dubai, the two girls trained together for two hours. They have a beautiful relationship between them. I have to say that Iga is really cool, we have huge respect for her. Ten thousand points at the top of the rankings can't be bought in the store. It's just the respect that Bára doesn't carry over to the match. For her, it's always a challenge to play against the best, and she loves that. While Iga scares everyone because she's the best and rolls over everyone, it's a celebration for Bára. Just like matches against Sabalenka or Pegula. She is really looking forward to them and she is not afraid, which is a huge difference."
It seems she also has a good game against Świątek.
"I have to say that she is probably one of the few that fits Iga's playing style. That's why she loves to train with her."
Let's move on to another topic. In Dubai, Barbora revealed how complicated her winter preparation was with a left wrist injury and how every victory at the beginning of the season was like a small miracle. What was it like?
"The injury was more severe than it seemed. The first very light tennis practice I had with Barbora was on December 28th, which is really late. The preparation was delayed, we started very cautiously, and the first full practice was just before the Adelaide tournament. And that's just talking about practices. Only when they start fully can you add sparring and start warming up. Then you need to win some matches. That's why it all took so long."
It's a shame that you didn't communicate this more as a team because the surprising last-minute withdrawal from the BJK Cup final left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
"Barbora somehow commented on it at the press conference. Yes, that injury, which initially didn't seem serious, was really severe. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell anyone about the severity of the injury..."
But now she's on the right track. After Dubai, she flew from 30th to 16th place in the rankings, just behind the Czech number one Petra Kvitova. Since she doesn't defend any points until Wimbledon, she's set to go very high again. What is the goal?
"You're right, due to last year's elbow injury, Barbora isn't defending anything now, which means that attacking the top ten is essentially our goal."
At the Persian Gulf, she became highly visible again, do you think she will have a bigger target on her back now?
"I hope so. (laughs) She has now shown for the third time in a row that she has what it takes. The first time was at Roland Garros when everyone thought it was a fluke. After the elbow injury, people didn't believe in her again, and then she won in Tallinn and Ostrava. After another injury, she achieved great success again. This is the third time she has experienced the same thing, meaning her return to the elite, so she should now know that it's not a fluke. She has had it confirmed three times. From a mental standpoint, she could be confident that she has what it takes. As for having a target on her back, it could be an advantage sometimes. Look at Iga Swiatek. She has the biggest target on her back, but on the other hand, everyone is afraid of her."
When I watched the matches in Dubai, it was remarkable how well Bára served. She has greatly improved her serve. Do you agree?
"I have a similar feeling because that's what we work on the most. We know that her serve is her biggest weakness, specifically the toss. That means that when she tosses the ball more than once, it doesn't mean she does it on purpose, but because she's constantly working on it. We work on her toss the most because it's said to be eighty percent of the success when serving. And then, of course, the smooth transition into the serve, which was evident in the fact that I finally saw speeds of 181 and 183 kilometers per hour on the radar gun. You can't be in the top 10 without a good first serve."
In addition to you, Bára has several advisors like Martina Navrátilová and Jan Kodeš. Are you still in touch?
"When she saved match points against Kasatkina, I received a long message from Mr. Kodeš congratulating us. And then, he listed all the things that were wrong. We immediately started working on them. (laughs) And on Thursday, I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Jan Kukal for half an hour, and we specifically discussed the problems with the serve."
What are your plans for the Sunshine Double, Indian Wells and Miami, after Dubai?
"It's a two-week tournament, and they're called the fifth Grand Slam for a reason. It will be something completely different again. You play one day, rest one day. To build on our good performances, she will play doubles with Kateřina Siniaková at both tournaments, to fill in the gaps. Given how late Bára started her season, she needs to play now. When we get to a point where we need to be careful not to overuse her arm or something else, we'll have to slow down a bit. But for now, we've said that it's important to play."
Is she still healthy?
"Yes, I have to knock on wood, she is healthy. She was just incredibly tired after Dubai. When we flew home, I told her not to call me until Friday, that she needed to rest. She looked at me accusingly for a while, thinking she should be training. I tried to explain to her that she needed to rest. After visiting a physiotherapist in Brno who told her she was fairly overloaded and that she should take a few days off, I was happy that I made the right call."