Jiri Lehecka surprised many and put on a career best performance, making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. The Czech knocked out notable names such as Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime along the way. Although he went out to eventual finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, it was a close match with Lehecka’s poor performance of 0/8 on break points being the difference maker.
Lehecka’s recent form may not be a surprise to avid tennis fans. Lehecka made the ATP Next Gen Finals at the end of last season, losing out to Brandon Nakashima at the last step. He has made notable improvements within the off season. The serve of Lehecka looks solid, with his combination hitting off his opponents return allowing him to earn dominate points behind serve. He covers huge amount of ground on court showing excellent athleticism, allowing him to grind down his opponents.
A lot of success on the tour has come on the hard surface for Lehecka, however he has put up good showings on the clay. Last year he played well in Belgrade, he went out to eventual champion Rublev and took a set off him in the process. He does have good experience on the slower and should still be danger for opponents when the clay swing kicks in. He was successful during his junior years on the clay, perhaps making it a surprise his breakout has come on the hard surface.
ATP 500 event Rotterdam starts the 13th February. Lehecka is a semi finalist from last year, where he went out in a 3 set battle against Tsitsipas. This tournament could be where he features next, and will be an excellent indicator to what level we can expect from him for the season to come. He is now 39th in the ATP rankings, which will allow him to enter smaller tournaments this year without having to go through the qualifying stages.
Since the retirement of Thomas Berdych in 2019, we are yet to see a real contender for titles on the tour from the Czech Republic. Lehecka is showing all the right signals to be the man to fill that void.
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