Player Features

Lehecka Aims To Continue Rise With Berdych In Corner

Czech is into the fourth round at Wimbledon
July 08, 2023
Jiri Lehecka started working with Tomas Berdych this season.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Jiri Lehecka started working with Tomas Berdych this season. By Sam Jacot

Editor's Note: This story was first published on 22nd June 2023.

In 2019, Czech star Tomas Berdych announced his retirement from tennis after a storied 17-year career. In the same year, countryman Jiri Lehecka made his tour-level debut, representing his nation in the Davis Cup.

Four years on and the 21-year-old Lehecka is the face of Czech men’s tennis, the same position former World No. 4 Berdych held season after season. The World No. 36 has already achieved a series of impressive results on Tour. He advanced to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January and has reached semi-finals in Rotterdam (in 2022) and Doha (2023).

His success caught the attention of Berdych, who after spending time with Lehecka in Dubai, decided to join the team on a more regular basis.

“It is great having Tomas with me,” Lehecka told in London. “He was in Monte-Carlo and he was in Rome and he will join us on Sunday here in London to do two weeks here at Wimbledon. I think that the cooperation works well.”

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Berdych captured 13 tour-level titles in his career, including an ATP Masters 1000 crown in Paris in 2005. He was in the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings from July 2010 until October 2016, reaching the Wimbledon final in 2010.

Lehecka, who also works full-time with coach Michal Navratil, is delighted to have Berdych’s experience to lean on.

“He already has a different perspective from which he sees things,” Lehecka said. “He can see it from a different position because he was there for a long time. He played really good tennis on grass so he can give me some good tips on how to play.

“I think that it works well. We’ll see what the season brings, but for now I think that it's helpful and that we gave him some small insight back to the game. I think that he started to miss it a bit, not playing. He likes to just to be around it I think.”

Now working together, Lehecka revealed that Berdych was a major inspiration for him when he grew up.

“I remember watching him during the final of the Davis Cup in 2012 when Czech beat Spain in Prague,” Lehecka said. “That was the first time where for me it was like, ‘Wow, this is one of the moments which I would love to feel myself’. It was funny because when I spoke with him, for him it is not that different. After all, 25 to 35 is not as big a difference as if you are 11 or 21. It was a funny moment and we had some fun talking about it.”

Lehecka will hope to channel Berdych’s grass-court abilities when he competes at Wimbledon.

The 21-year-old is playing in his sixth tour-level event on the surface, having earned his second grass-court win in his first-round match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at The Queen's Club. The 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up is a huge fan of the surface despite his limited experience.

“I think that the grass season is the holiday of tennis because it requires something more from everyone,” Lehecka said. “From taking care of the grass with the ground keepers to everyone else who is trying to take care about the tournament because grass is grass. You can’t just build a court and leave it there. The grass quality here is huge and I think that Queen’s is an amazing tournament.

“It's the surface where it really shows you the truth. It's a surface where you really need to show your skills. If you're not a good player, then you will never have a good result. It's not like one of the surfaces where you can just run around and try to grind it out. You really need to have that shot quality to get the point. I'm a very big fan of all that.”

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