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“Just don’t leave without a fight” – Krejcikova believes she belongs with the elite, and demonstrated why in win over Sabalenka

The 2021 Roland-Garros champion had a tough 2022 but still believes she’s in the mix with the WTA’s elite.

Barbora Krejcikova Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2023 Barbora Krejcikova Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2023 | AI / Reuters / Panoramic

2022 was a trial by fire for Barbora Krejcikova, as the Czech struggled mightily with an elbow as she attempted to back up the breakout success that she achieved in 2021, when she claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros. Krejcikova would make her top five debut, finish 2021 at No 5 and rise to as high as No 2 in the WTA rankings a year ago, on February 28, 2022.

“I felt like I have a belief that I can play with these girls, with the best ones. I also believe that I can beat them.”

Barbora Krejcikova, February 2023, Dubai

Then came a precipitous drop as the painful elbow plagued the Czech, who went 25-15 on the season and was out of the top 20 by the time the US Open rolled around.

It would have been easy to forget about Krejcikova last year, as Iga Swiatek tore up the tour, reeling off a 37-match winning streak and winning two major titles as she became the tour’s dominant No 1.

But the Czech refused to disappear and she came to life after the US Open, reeling off a 10-match winning streak that highlighted by a sparkling takedown of Swiatek in the Ostrava final.

In 2023, even as her results have been mixed (round of 16 loss to Pegula at Australian Open, 9-4 record overall), the 27-year-old has once again proven that she can stand toe-to-toe with the elite.

Grit and fire fueled her upset win of Sabalenka

Case in point: Krejcikova’s 0-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 takedown of world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka that marked the end of the Belarusian’s 13-match winning streak. Just when Sabalenka was looking her most invincible, leading Krejcikova by a bagel set and 3-1, the Czech dug deep and showed her mettle, winning 12 of the next 16 games to book her first semi-final of 2023.

It was her grit that got the rally started.

“Just go for it, just fight, just don’t leave without fight,” Krejcikova said of her mindset against Sabalenka. “I felt that I’m going to get some chances, that in every single match you get a chance.

“I just felt like just keep going, keep try to play your game, wait for the chance, then just try to convert it.”

Krejcikova – I can play with these girls

Krejcikova believes she can play with the tour’s elite, and the numbers back it up. She has won her last three contests against top-5 players, and has won five of eight against the top 10 since the start of 2022.

She was undaunted by scorching-hot Sabalenka on Thursday. She wanted the challenge, took it on, and came out on top.

“She’s great. I was watching the Australian Open final. She was playing amazing,” Krejcikova said of the 2023 Australian Open champion. “I expected it’s going to be really difficult. But then also, on the other hand, I felt like I have a belief that I can play with these girls, with the best ones. I also believe that I can beat them.

“I was just looking for the chance.”

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