This time last year, Barbora Krejcikova was in the middle of a three-month hiatus from the tour, nursing an elbow injury, and wondering if she would be able to take to the courts at Roland-Garros for her title defence.
She attempted to play in Paris, but lost her opener, and it wasn’t until the end of the season that she recaptured her form, going on a nine-match winning streak to clinch titles in Tallinn and Ostrava.
This season, Krejcikova started strong, making the fourth round at the Australian Open and lifting the trophy in Dubai with consecutive victories against the world’s top three – Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Jessica Pegula – to officially put the tour on notice that she is ready to climb back to where she belongs at the top of the women’s game.
“When I read something on social media, it’s about Iga, Aryna, and Elena (Rybakina); I’m not really there. What else should I do? How should I prove it again?” she recently told WTA Insider in an interview.
“I want to be mentioned as well. I want to be recognised as well because I think I deserve it. I’ve had a lot of success on the tour and I just don’t get the credit.”
Seeded No.11 in Madrid, Krejcikova opened her account with a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 victory over Danka Kovinic to set up a third round against fellow Grand Slam champion Bianca Andreescu or Chinese lefty Wang Xiyu.
The 57th-ranked Kovinic arrived in Madrid fresh off a title run at the W100 tournament in Oeiras and caused all sorts of trouble for Krejcikova in the first two sets.
“It was a really tough match, I thought it was going to be a tough match because I saw her results and she was on a roll,” said the 27-year-old Krejcikova. “So I’m really happy with this win and with the way I was improving. Even though the second set didn’t go my way, I found another energy to keep going.”
A topsy-turvy opening set witnessed a combined six breaks of serve but it was Krejcikova who finally managed to snatch the lead after 53 minutes of play.
Some impressive defence from Kovinic along with a decisive break in the fifth game of the second set saw the Montenegrin level the match and force a decider.
The 2021 Roland-Garros champion came out blazing in the final set though, unleashing a backhand passing shot winner for an early break before cruising ahead to deliver a bagel and punch her ticket to the third round.
This was Krejcikova’s third clay-court match of the season and she is still finding her footing on the red dirt.
“It’s very up and down to be honest because I didn’t really play much on clay recently,” said Krejcikova of her current confidence level.
“Last year I missed the whole thing and the year before was my biggest result. To be honest it’s up and down but I still believe in my game, which I’ve really improved since two years ago. So the things I was playing two years ago I’m not playing anymore so it’s a little tricky to actually find a way.
“But I think so far I’m finding it and overall I played a couple of matches and I feel with every match, I’m just trying to find it.”