Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic in her girls’ singles second-round match at Wimbledon on July 9, 2019 in London Photo: VCG
Following in the footsteps of Wimbledon winners Jana Novotna and Petra Kvitova, the Fruhvirtova sisters are determined that the Czech Republic keeps producing women’s tennis champions – even if it means shedding blood on court.
Last week, Linda (14) and Brenda (12) teamed up with Nikola Bartunkova to win the world junior tennis championships, with the sisters clinching the key two points in the final against the US.
“It feels great, the three of us gave it everything as we really wanted to win,” said Linda, recalling a disappointing final loss to Russia in the same competition a year ago.
It was a triumph, however, which was not entirely pain-free. Linda played with a sprained left thumb, using a splint.
“But I took it off in the semifinals. And in the finals I just decided to live with the injury and have fun,” she said.
Her sister in turn hit the scoreboard with her head during her final singles rubber.
“I went to the edge to calm down, then I raised my head and banged the scoreboard. Then I touched my head and felt the blood,” said Brenda, who won the rubber in straight sets after a medical timeout.
The three girls are the next age level in a seemingly endless supply of great women players from the small central European country which has lifted the Fed Cup six times in the past eight years.
Former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova, this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova and French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova – still a teenager – rank among the current Czech stars.
Others follow – 22-year-old Karolina Muchova made the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year and 21-year-old Marie Bouzkova impressed at the recent Rogers Cup in Toronto, reaching the semifinals.
“I guess we’re simply good,” chuckled Linda Fruhvirtova, facing a group of journalists in Prague.
“There are many good players here, we have great tournaments, we play doubles more than in other countries – and we’re simply the best,” added Bartunkova.
In a country where soccer battles ice hockey for the most popular sport, the choice for boys’ parents is obvious, says Ivo Kaderka, head of the Czech Tennis Federation.
“Most little boys want to be Pavel Nedved or Jaromir Jagr rather than Tomas Berdych,” he told AFP. “But the parents of daughters who have an obvious talent for sports mostly take them to a tennis club.
“There they benefit from a unique support system for young players – they have brilliant training conditions, they have countless opportunities to play tournaments.”
The recent title also serves as motivation for the young trio.
“It’s a challenge, big motivation to be the best,” said Bartunkova.
“We want to achieve the same things as our role models on the adult level,” added Linda.
All three are chaperoned by their parents on the court. “Mum’s pretty nervous, I guess she’s more nervous than me,” chuckled Brenda, who also praises her sister’s presence.
“It’s great to have a sister on the team, I can always rely on her when I need it.”
Linda said having Brenda felt good in an individual sport where “you don’t have lots of friends really.”