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“We can see positive things in every win and every loss” – blossoming Lehecka learning on the fly
The 21-year-old Czech has made major progress in 2023, but is just beginning to discover his best tennis on tour.
Wins over Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime propelled Jiri Lehecka to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open in January, and a top 50 debut not long after. Less than a month later the 21-year-old Czech is still making a mark on the ATP Tour. He pushed into the quarter-finals on Doha on Wednesday to set a last eight clash with top seed Andrey Rublev.
“The more confident I am, bigger shots I’m able to play.”Jiri Lehecka, Doha, February 2023
With a forehand that has averaged 79.2 MPH and 2992 revolutions per minute (per data analysis provided by Andrew Eichenholz of ATP Tour), Lehecka is one of the most lethal ball-strikers on tour, and is clearly a handful to deal with for his opponents. As his confidence grows with each victory he achieves, he becomes more lethal.
“The more confident I am, bigger shots I’m able to play,” said Lehecka on Wednesday after dashing past Emil Ruusuvuori 6-2, 7-6. “So for me, to gain the confidence was also the key, you know, how to improve, let’s say, the big-time tennis.”
Just over a year ago, Lehecka had a breakthrough in Rotterdam, reaching the semi-finals in Rotterdam as a wild card. He was ranked 137 at the time; today he’s up to 52 and promising to make a run at the top 20 this season.
He says that his attention to detail on strokes, and his mental performance, has helped him make waves on the tour.
“I’m very happy that we pushed through and also with some adjustments in my game, focusing more on serve, being more calm through the whole match,” Lehecka told reporters. “It also helps me to be more concentrated on the important points where, if I’m a bit lucky and I go for it, I’m able to produce some very good, like, shots, sometimes even the big points.
“I will play more of these matches”
The experience at Melbourne, where Lehecka parlayed his first main draw Grand Slam victory into a trip to the quarter-finals, was Lehecka’s next big breakthrough. He gave a good account of himself against eventual finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals, and will surely benefit from the experience.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get the win. Stefanos was too good that day, but I think and I believe that I will play more of these matches on the biggest stages,” he said.
“We can see positive things in every win and loss”
Most important, Lehecka is taking the wins and losses in stride on tour. He sees both as learning experiences, and with his coach Michal Navratil by his side, he’s determined to turn his experience into growth.
“I have goals every tournament where I go, so of course I know that for me this is another step, you know, forward,” Lehecka said. “But the great advantage, which I have, me and my team, what we have, is that we can point, we can see positive things in every win and also in every loss, which helps us to learn faster from every situation we are in.”