Jiri Lehecka made his major draw debut in any respect 4 Grand Slams in 2022, his breakthrough season. However the Czech was unable to make his mark on the majors, falling quick within the first spherical on every event.

What would the 21-year-old have stated if instructed earlier than the beginning of the season he would attain the fourth spherical on the Australian Open?

“I wouldn’t consider you,” Lehecka instructed ATPTour.com with a smile. “However deep in my thoughts, I at all times knew that outcomes like this are doable for me.”

The World No. 71 has performed mature past his years at Melbourne Park, defeating two ATP Masters 1000 champions — Borna Coric and Cameron Norrie — en path to the Spherical of 16. And the Czech exhibits no indicators of slowing down.

“I felt like my recreation was there, however that I simply wanted to deal with some small particulars that may get me by these powerful matches,” Lehecka stated. “That’s one thing that I believe we labored exhausting on quite a bit and focussed on day-after-day and each observe. Now for me, an important factor is simply to remain focussed on the fitting issues.”

If his efforts up to now on the yr’s first main are a superb indicator, Lehecka will probably be a constant risk on the world’s largest tournaments for years to come back. Not unhealthy for somebody who grew up enjoying tennis for enjoyable.

“Again within the days after I was enjoying tennis again residence, it was solely about enjoyment and I by no means had huge ambitions to turn into a professional,” Lehecka stated. “For me it has at all times been like a pastime and to do some sports activities that I appreciated.”

The Czech has athletic genes. His father, Jiri, was knowledgeable swimmer and his mom, Romana, was knowledgeable track-and-field athlete. Lehecka believes he inherited empathy from his mom and his work ethic from his father, who preaches that the easiest way to earn something is difficult work.

When Lehecka was three, he watched as his grandmother taught his older sister, Veronika, the game. He needed to offer it a shot. However tennis didn’t turn into extra severe for Lehecka till he moved to Prostejov aged 15 and started representing the Czech Republic in varied occasions.

“I began to really feel extra like I might love to try this professionally and I actually appreciated how all these gamers regarded when they’re enjoying on the large levels,” Lehecka stated. “That was in all probability the second after I took a checked out myself and stated, ‘Yeah, I actually need to be knowledgeable tennis participant and I actually need to reside a life like that.’”

Transferring to Prostejov to attend a sports activities college was scary on the similar time. Lehecka went to his new residence with out his mother and father.

“It wasn’t straightforward for certain however fortunately for me, I had nice buddies over there that I nonetheless be in contact with,” Lehecka stated. “They helped me undergo these tough occasions when it was my first time with out my household or anyone I knew to focus extra on the tennis and deal with what I ought to do there.”

It was in Prostejov the place coach Michal Navratil met Lehecka for the primary time.

“What I used to be excited [about] was he was a really good man, at all times stated good day to everybody. He was a form man,” Lehecka stated. “Then after all after I noticed him on the court docket he was very highly effective. The energy from the start was in him.”

Lehecka reached No. 10 on the planet as a junior, however his largest splash up to now got here final February in Rotterdam. As a qualifier, he superior to the semi-finals with wins over Denis Shapovalov and Lorenzo Musetti alongside the way in which earlier than pushing Stefanos Tsitsipas to 3 units. He was not intimidated by the large stage of the ATP 500.

That consolation underneath the highlight turned even clearer on the Subsequent Gen ATP Finals in November. The Czech superior to the championship match in Milan.

“Once I ended the journey within the ultimate and I simply took a while off and took a while to get again on the bottom and a while trying again on the Subsequent Gen, I believe that each match over there, each observe session, and all of the media stuff round, every little thing helped me in a sure means,” Lehecka stated. “These are the experiences that helped me to be extra ready for what came to visit right here.”

Navratil believes that “one thing modified” in Milan for his cost.

“He began to consider extra in himself,” Navratil stated. “He had a few possibilities additionally through the yr and he discovered from it and he grew up and he bought so far and now he enjoys it and he believes he can beat anybody and I’m so comfortable for it.”

Former WTA World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova has been following Lehecka’s progress by the event and was impressed together with his five-set win in opposition to Cameron Norrie within the third spherical.

“He has a extremely good coach, who was once round with Jiri Vesely. So I believe that’s additionally helped him to deliver some expertise, however I believe the sport is kind of sturdy,” Pliskova stated. “I truly watched yesterday numerous the match with Norrie. I believe he’s very aggressive, particularly on these quick courts I believe it might repay and naturally he’s nonetheless like a newcomer for a few of the gamers, in order that they don’t know him that a lot and I believe he can do properly.”

Whereas Lehecka hopes to proceed additional within the event — he performs Felix Auger-Aliassime within the fourth spherical — and climb the game’s ladder within the years to come back, he needs the followers who start to observe him to find out about extra than simply his tennis.

“I simply need them to know that I’m an sincere individual,” Lehecka stated. “I actually like people who find themselves working exhausting and they aren’t looking for any excuses.”

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