Jiri Lehecka: “Tennis was the only option for me” | ATP tour
Jiri Lehecka remembers touching a tennis racket for the first time when he was three years old. Her grandmother, who competed nationally, taught her older sister the game, so naturally Jiri wanted to participate.
“I wanted to do the same. At the moment, tennis was the only option for me. I did a lot of other sports. I had a very sporty childhood, I would say,” Lehecka told ATPTour.com. “But tennis won and of course nothing to regret.”
This decision is proving successful. On Tuesday, the Czech Republic‘s #NextGenATP star picked up his first tour-level win with a 6-4, 6-4 win over world number 12 Denis Shapovalov at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
“Of course, I’m excited. It was a good match today for me. Very happy with my performance,” said Lehecka. “I knew it would be a tough game of course, he’s the world No.12. It’s not easy against these type of players.
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Lehecka is getting used to competing with the best in the world. After qualifying for his first major main draw at this year’s Australian Open, the Czech pushed former world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov to a tough four sets.
“Of course, that helped a lot. Every game like this is very good for me,” Lehecka said. “Our plan will be to play these games as much as possible and progress more and more.”
Lehecka is the son of two athletes. Her father was a swimmer and her mother was a track and field star. He has been skiing, cycling and swimming for a long time.
“I have the genes to be a sportsman,” Lehecka said. “Sport is my passion all the way, top to bottom.”
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According to Lehecka, who also enjoys hiking in the mountains and playing video games, growing up with more than tennis allowed him to become a more well-rounded athlete.
“It’s something a bit different of course, but I think it helped a lot and maybe it can even help tennis in certain situations,” Lehecka said. “If you’re going up the hill, you have to keep going, otherwise you’ll fall.”
It’s also helped to have parents who understand what it’s like to compete in a top sport, even if they haven’t played professional tennis.
“I think it was pretty good because they know what sports life is like. They know what it is,” Lehecka said. “They know the environment around the athlete. What is good is that they know how the body works and they know how to help me in certain situations.
There are currently no Czech singles players in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. But when Lehecka was young, he had Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek to motivate him.
“When I was young they were winning the Davis Cup and playing amazing games,” Lehecka recalled. “Every time they played I watched TV and tried to imagine what it would be like if I was in their shoes one day and of course they gave me a lot of inspiration when I saw all the Czech fans cheering for them.”
Will Lehecka be the next in the long line of Czech stars? Only time will tell. But the world No. 137 is progressing quickly, and will try to continue his ascent in the round of 16 against the Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp or the Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles.