The moment that changed everything for Jiri Lehecka | ATP circuit

Use Lehecka he made his main draw debut at all four Grand Slams in 2022, his breakout season. But the Czech couldn’t make his mark in the majors, and he came up short in the first round each time.

What would the 21-year-old have said if he had been told before the start of the season that he would reach the fourth round in the australian open?

“I wouldn’t believe you,” Lehecka told with a smile. “But in the back of my mind, I always knew results like this are possible for me.”

The World No. 71 has played mature beyond his Melbourne Park years, defeating two ATP Masters 1000 champions: borna coric Y cameron norrie — en route to the round of 16. And the Czech shows no signs of slowing down.

“I felt like my game was there, but I just needed to focus on some small details that can help me get through these tough matches,” Lehecka said. “That is something that I think we work a lot on and focus on every day and in every practice. Now, for me, the most important thing is to stay focused on the right things.”

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If his efforts so far in the first major of the year are any good indicator, Lehecka will be a constant threat at the world’s biggest tournaments for years to come. Not bad for someone who grew up playing tennis for fun.

“In the days when I played tennis at home, it was just about enjoying myself and I never had any great ambitions to turn professional,” Lehecka said. “For me it has always been like a hobby and doing some sports that I liked.”

The Czech has athletic genes. His father, Jiri, was a professional swimmer and his mother, Romana, was a professional track and field athlete. Lehecka believes he inherited the empathy from his mother and the work ethic from his father, who preaches that the best way to earn something is to work hard.

When Lehecka was three years old, she watched her grandmother teach her older sister, Veronika, the sport. She wanted to give it a try. But tennis didn’t become more serious for Lehecka until she moved to Prostejov at age 15 and began representing the Czech Republic in various events.

“I started to feel that I would love to do that professionally and I really liked how all these players looked when they played on the big stages,” Lehecka said. “That was probably the moment I looked at myself and said, ‘Yeah, I really want to be a professional tennis player and I really want to live a life like that.'”

Moving to Prostejov to attend a sports school was scary at the same time. Lehecka went to her new home without her parents.

“It sure wasn’t easy, but luckily for me, I had great friends there that I still keep in touch with,” Lehecka said. “They helped me get through those tough times when it was my first time without my family or someone I knew to focus more on tennis and focus on what I should be doing there.”

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It was in Prostejov that the coach michael navartil he met Lehecka for the first time.

“What excited me [about] He was a very nice guy, he always greeted everyone. He was a nice guy,” Lehecka said. “So of course when I saw him on the court, he was very powerful. The strength from the beginning was in him.”

Lehecka reached world number 10 as a junior, but his biggest success to date came last February in Rotterdam. As a qualifier, he advanced to the semifinals with victories over Denis Shapovalov Y lorenzo musetti on the way before pushing Stefanos Tsitsipas to three sets. He was not intimidated by the big stage of the ATP 500.

That comfort under the spotlight became even clearer in the Next Generation ATP Finals in November. The Czech advanced to the championship game in Milan.

“When I finished the journey in the finals and took some time off and took time to get back to the ground and time to look back at the next generation, I think every match there, every practice session and all the stuff from the media, it all helped me in a certain way,” Lehecka said. “These are the experiences that helped me be more prepared for what came here.”

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Navratil believes that “something changed” in Milan for his position.

“He started to believe in himself more,” Navratil said. “He also had a couple of chances during the year and he learned from that, he grew and got to this point and now he enjoys it and believes that he can beat anyone and I’m very happy about that.”

Former WTA World No.1 Karolina Pliskova has been following Lehecka’s progress throughout the tournament and was impressed with her five-set win against cameron norrie in the third round.

“He has a very good coach, who used to be with jiri vesely. So I think that also helped him bring some experience, but I think the game is pretty strong,” Pliskova said. “In fact, I watched a lot of the game yesterday with Norrie. I think he is very aggressive, especially on these fast courts. I think he can pay off and of course he’s still a newcomer to some of the players so they don’t know him very much and I think he can do well.”

While Lehecka hopes to continue further into the tournament, he plays Happy Auger-too in the fourth round, and moving up the sport’s ladder for years to come, he wants the fans who start watching him to know more than just his tennis.

“I just want them to know that I am an honest person,” Lehecka said. “I really like people who work hard and aren’t trying to find excuses.”

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