With Pressure Off His Shoulders, Zdenek Kolar Can Now Play His Best Tennis

Zdenek Kolar
Poznan, Poland–

Czech tennis is currently in a phase with multiple under-25-year-old talents on the verge of breaking through. Zdenek Kolar has won two Challenger Tour trophies this season (Oeiras and Iasi). On top of that, Jiri Lehecka has recently triumphed at Tampere Challenger, while Vit Kopriva reached the semifinals at a tour-level event in Gstaad, taking out Denis Shapovalov and Mikael Ymer. Tomas Machac, Jonas Forejtek, and Dalibor Svrcina have also had their fair share of success either in professional events, or on the juniors tour.

Zdenek Kolar in 2021

“I’m not practicing very often with them, but we are really good friends,” said the 24-year-old Kolar, asked if they motivate each other to constantly work harder and harder. On Tuesday, he defeated Forejtek in the opening round of the Poznan Challenger 6-4 6-4 and praised his performance. “He’s playing very fast, especially from his forehand, so it was a very tough match today”.

Before this year, the Czech reached the final eight at 22 ATP Challenger Tour events, but couldn’t raise a single trophy. When asked about what helped him make the jump from a semifinalist, quarterfinalist on the circuit to a title winner, he mentioned working on his physicality. “Maybe I am now stronger than before… I hope that my game is better than before and that’s why I won some Challengers.”

Kolar reached his only final before this year at Ostrava in 2016, losing in three sets to Constant Lestienne. “Last time when I played a final was maybe five years ago, and many people (asked) me when I will play in another final, it’s been a long time already.” The first event that Kolar triumphed in in 2021 was the Oeiras Challenger, an event of the newly-created Challenger 50 category, which was designed to help the players struggling on that circuit, but way too good for the ITF Men’s Tennis Tour. The Czech fit that criteria perfectly, and with his maiden title allowing him to relax and play with less pressure on his shoulders, he was able to keep improving and won another title a couple of weeks ago at Iasi.

In the aforementioned final, Kolar defeated Hugo Gaston, who went on to reach the finals at Gstaad just the week after. The Czech praised his opponent’s touch and dangerous lefty forehand, acknowledging the depth of the men’s tour at the moment and how tough it is to find your breakthrough. “I’m feeling that every year it’s much stronger, the players are doing their best. I think it doesn’t matter if the player is 200th, 400th, or 500th, the level is the same.”

“Sometimes it’s four centimeters if it’s in or out, every point is really, really important,” said Kolar when asked whether he thinks that a run like the one Gaston had in Gstaad might be around the corner for him. The devil is in the details and with the ATP Challenger Tour in such a competitive state, you have to keep giving yourself chances. That’s certainly what Kolar is doing in Poznan this week and Thursday will be a very big day for the 24-year-old. First, he will take on Pedro Cachin in the second round of the singles event, only to contest the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament later in the day (alongside Jiri Lehecka). Zdenek Kolar is a more accomplished doubles player at this level, taking ten titles in twenty final appearances.

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