Marie Bouzkova is just the latest bouncing Czech to breeze into Wimbledon and find the grass very much to her liking – maintaining a very strong tradition from that nation.
The 23-year-old originally from Prague but now living in Florida in the USA reached the first grand slam quarter-final of her career with a highly impressive 7-5, 6-2 victory over France’s Caroline Garcia on Court Two. It marks a big turnaround in recent fortunes after having to withdraw from the French Open with a positive Covid test.
For a player that freely admits she has “100 superstitions” that meant another strawberries and cream binge after the win with her family and team, something she has done in each round following equally laudable victories against first No7 seed Danielle Collins in three tough sets, and then American Ann Li in two.
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Then came a significant 6-2, 6-3 success over Alison Riske, an excellent grass-court performer who has won titles on the surface. That made people sit up and take notice. And then against Emma Raducanu’s conqueror Garcia on Sunday morning, when the questions were asked about holding her nerve in the biggest match of her life, they were answered in emphatic style.
With a very solid serve and dependable ground strokes, Bouzkova has the foundations – and though not coming to the net much against Garcia, invariably the point went her way when she did. But it was scarcely believable hustling defensive skills that caught the eye.
Time and again Garcia was made to play not just one more shot in the rally, but several – often going on to lose the point while being left shaking her head in disbelief.
Bouzkova said: “For sure. If you would tell me before the tournament started I would be in the quarters, I probably wouldn't believe you. Always try to take it match by match. Since first match has been really tough journey for me.
“I have been feeling really many emotions. Yeah, just to be now in the quarters, it's something very special for me. I'm just, like, really proud right now that I've been able to handle everything the way I have and just enjoy the moment.
“I felt really good after I got negative again, and had a good training block at home. So I've actually been feeling really well physically after COVID in Paris. It was just more for me about getting used to the grass, and making a quick switch. But I was able to do that. I always like to play on grass. I just know it takes a few days, maybe one or two matches, to get used to it, to make some small changes.
“The next round is going to be a special one again, for sure – and there's no reason why not to keep this going. I am believing in myself right now. But most importantly enjoying my tennis, enjoying every day here. All these new emotions that I'm feeling this week, that's already very special.”
With the exception of the USA and with a mention for Germany in singles, virtually no other country has made more of an impact in the women’s game at Wimbledon in the Open era. Czechoslovakia formerly, and the Czech Republic as the divided country is now known, has produced a plethora of top players that have enjoyed great success at SW19.
There have been the great singles champions Martina Navratilova, Petra Kvitova, the late and sadly missed Jana Novotna – a finalist on two more occasions. Karolina Pliskova and Hana Mandlikova have also reached the final in singles.
And then in the women’s doubles Navratilova shone with several partners notably American Pam Shriver, while other title-winning partnerships included Novotna and Helena Sukova, Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova, and Andrea Hlavackova with Lucie Hradecka.
Bouzkova herself is no mean doubles player and had enjoyed more success in that sphere until this Wimbledon, getting to the final of the junior girls doubles eight years ago in London, and winning three WTA doubles titles as a pro with first Hradecka and then Sara Sorribes Tormo - and reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2021.
She will face Ons Jabeur in the final eight after the Tunisian beat Elise Mertens in straight sets.