After a lean period for Barbora Krejcikova, this was a week to remember at the San Diego WTA500 event. She won the singles title, defeating Sofia Kenin in three sets, and then she and Katerina Siniakova teamed up to take the doubles title as well. The last time Krejcikova did this was, of course, the Roland Garros, 2021 singles and doubles double.
These last months have been tough going for us Krejcikova fans. It all started so well when she won the title in Dubai back in February, however, there followed a string of unlucky draws where she was defeated by Aryna Sabalenka in Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart. Then a dismal clay-court season, saw Krejcikova very out of sorts and splitting with her longtime coach Ales. What was worrying was her demeanour on court. One match that springs to mind was the defeat to Ostapenko in Rome. Anyone can lose to Ostapenko but Krejcikova was a long way up and well on top in the first set, and then completely collapsed. Barely won a point after that alarming slump.
One of the things that has always stood out about Krejcikova is her mental attitude, her mental strength, but she seemed to be all over the place in the clay court season. I didn’t even watch the round one defeat to Lesia Tsurenko, because once I saw the result and heard how she had been incredibly out of sorts I couldn’t bring myself to watch. (Incidentally, Tsurenko also put out Siniakova at Wimbledon! A new enemy!)
But Krejcikova just didn’t seem to know what to do on the court and was not displaying the type of tennis that established her as a top player. Her break out in 2021 was on the clay courts in Strasbourg and then of course in Roland-Garros. Krejcikova was not a flashy player but a smart player. However a run at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 where she won the titles in Tallinn, Ostrava and Dubai, saw Krejcikova playing a much more aggressive game. This aggressive game is quite dynamic to watch but higher risk. So what happens when the risks stop paying off?
On clay, a surface that should be her best considering her pedigree, she just didn’t seem to have the patience and was going for overly aggressive shots. If Krejcikova can’t be calm and can’t think clearly, she’s not going to win.
The grass season began well with a run to the Birmingham final and Krejcikova starting to look more like herself again. However, Ostapenko once again did for her but to be fair this was peak, ball-bashing Ostapenko, who can beat anyone.
It was at Wimbledon where she got injured and derailed several months of the season. An injury to her ankle took her and Siniakova out of the doubles where they were defending champions and put their doubles team in a real rut. They barely won matches for the next couple of months. A disappointing loss in the round two of the US Open to Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousová did see Krejcikova start playing a little better, but Siniakova was all over the place. To me, despite the fact that she lost in singles in the US Open to Bronzetti. There were signs of Krejcikova starting to play better, but just too many errors.
Fast forward to San Diego and what a joy for us Krejcikova fans. Yes, winning the singles title and the doubles title is great, but what was especially great was the manner of the victories. This was Barbara back to what we expect. Mentally strong, gritty, variety. It wasn’t quite perfect. There was definitely edginess, which was not surprising for somebody who was on a four match losing streak.
Good wins over Kalinina and Beatriz Haddad Maia and then a semi-final against Danielle Collins, which was a good match with both playing very well. Collins was striking the ball nicely, but when Krejcikova struck back to win the second set she looked in control and closed out a fine three-set victory.
In the final, it was Sofia Kenin, and to be honest, I was very confident Krejcikova was going to win this. Kenin has fallen a long way since winning the Australian Open and making the Roland Garros final in 2020. Struck down by a string of injuries and struggling to get her form back, it was actually nice to see her in a final again. She has notched up wins over Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka this year so her talent is undeniable. However, she was bandaged up and not moving great in the semi-final win against Emma Navarro. I was actually really impressed with the way she played in this final. She’s such a determined and gritty character. Under pressure she served exceedingly well and I have to say her dropshots were quite impressive. She even moon balled Barbara on one point which is not something that happens very often!
After splitting the first 2 sets – although Krejcikova definitely had chances to close it in 2 – Set 3 began in a similar cagey way. Both players playing well serving well and no break points. However, as the set progressed, Krejcikova starting to hold serve a little easier and put a little more pressure on Kenin. The massive moment came at four all in the third set. Krejcikova had chances to get near to breaking the previous game, but a few sloppy shots and she found herself at 15-40, double break point down. This was a huge moment because you got the impression that whoever broke first would win this match. This was also a key moment because this is where Kenin blinked. She had break points but could not convert, hitting a couple in the net. However, massive credit to Krejcikova, who had four second serves, but held somehow.
Serving to stay in the match, once again, Kenin blinked, double fault and hit shots out at key moments and Krejcikova was yelling in celebration. This wasn’t quite Ostrava or Dubai, where she beat Iga Świątek in the finals, but after the lean period that Krejcikova had and the poor form for several months, it was great to see her with her seventh WTA title.
But more joy was to come! With not much more than half an hour’s rest, Krejcikova and Siniakova came out to play the doubles final. In many ways, the loss of form of Krejcikova and Siniakova, as a doubles team was by far the bigger shock and the bigger disappointment. To be honest it all started to fall apart a little after the Australian Open. While they won the title in Indian Wells, it was not the most convincing. Despite the fact that Siniakova has been world number one all that time, she’s been playing with an anxiousness about her. Of course, Katerina Siniakova always plays on the edge. She’s an emotional player with highs and lows. Brilliant movement and brilliant backhand, she’s undoubtedly a great doubles player. However, when Krejcikova was low in confidence and not providing the solidity, it seemed to make Siniakova‘s game less secure. Injury also hit Siniakova with her picking up a wrist injury. I watched the match in Miami, and it was really nasty. She couldn’t even pick up her bag at the end was in tears. So with Siniakova‘s wrist and Krejcikova’s ankle, the two of them were definitely struggling this season.
The first round win at the US Open was valuable, but it was against a pair ranked in the 70s and yet Krejcikova and yet Siniakova barely scraped through. It was a win, but it was hardly convincing. The second round loss to Strycova and Vondrousová was not unexpected, but the way that they lost was a little depressing for fans of Krejcikova and Siniakova. Obviously they were playing against the Wimbledon singles champion Vondrousová and Wimbledon doubles champion Strycova. It was a difficult draw, plus the younger Czechs have not had great results against Barbora Strycova in the past, and it seemed like she had the mental edge over them. Strycova was all over the net and Siniakova didn’t seem to impose herself at all. Krejcikova was playing quite well but Siniakova was a mess. She was going for big winners and just missing the court time and time again and getting more and more frustrated.
To make matters worse for Siniakova, she was the top seed in qualifying for San Diego. only to lose her first match!
They must have wondered who they annoyed when they saw the first round draw as they were paired against Caroline Garcia and Demi Schuurs, two excellent doubles players. However, Krejcikova and Siniakova looked different this week. They looked more like their old selves, calmer and playing well as a team. They were still not completely perfect, but all of their wins this week were in straight sets. Importantly, Krejcikova was back to being solid on serve and Siniakova back to being lively at the net.
This week was just joyful to see. Probably the toughest match was in the semifinals against Kato and Sutjiadi, the pair who are mostly famous for getting defaulted from Roland-Garros after Kato hit the tennis ball into the face of a ball girl. Despite hearing of these players, I haven’t seen them play that much. The semi-final was actually a fantastic match. Kato was all over the place – so energetic and dynamic. However, this brought out the best in Krejcikova and Siniaková, who probably played their best match since the Australian Open.
I did worry whether Krejcikova would have much energy for the doubles final considering she played singles and doubles the day before as well. However, the opponents were Danielle Collins and Coco Vanderweghe. Vandeweghe – the original Coco – is retiring after this tournament and to be honest she looked semi retired already. Big serve, but volleys weren’t great. The first set was almost embarrassingly one-sided, Krejcikova and Siniakova were superb. Barbora looked totally dialled in and it could’ve been a bagel set, but Vanderweigh found a few serves to make it 6-1. Inexplicably, the Czechs seemed to fall asleep and they dropped the first two games playing absolutely abysmally. Fortunately they woke up and battled back to make it a pretty entertaining second set. Krejcikova showed signs of tiredness just once, on an extremely long point that would give them another break and they closed out a very comfortable victory.
The double – winning the singles and doubles title at the same tournament – isn’t done that often. Nao Hibino did it at the 250 in Prague earlier this year and previously Ash Barty did it in Adelaide in 2022 and the previous one before that was Krejcikova at Roland Garros in 2021.
Interestingly, Krejcikova’s last 4 titles have all been won when she is wearing long sleeves. Keep those warm tops on Barbora!
My tennis cheering year has been an odd one. Some great moments from Petra Kvitova with the titles in Miami and Berlin, Krejcikova in Dubai. Doubles cheering at the Australian Olen and Indian Wells. Then other Czechs to follow – Muchova at Roland Garros, Vondrousová at Wimbledon, with both also playing well at the U.S. Open.
I’m very pleased for Krejcikova and Siniaková because it’s been difficult watching them struggle over the past couple of months. Krejcikova and Siniakova have been the best double team in the world, and Krejcikova is right up there as one of the best singles players in the world, and back in the top 10 now. Pojd girls!