With three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic medals and five Billie Jean King Cup victories to her résumé, Lucy Hrdecá has earned a stature in the Czech tennis pantheon.
To sum up, the humble leftist joined forces with fellow countryman Andrea Sestini Hlavakova to conquer the major doubles titles, at Roland Garros in 2011 and the US Open in 2013, and with another Czech, Frantisek Cermak, to win the mixed doubles title in Paris in 2013.
Across those two areas, she reached six more slam finals, while at the Olympics she and Hlavakova Sestini took silver in London in 2012, falling to the Williams sisters in the final. Later that same season, they reached the title match at the WTA Finals in Istanbul. Four years later, Hradecka teamed up with Radek Stepanek to win the bronze medal in the mixed race in Rio.
While Hradecka spent the latter part of her career polishing her doubles reputation – she reached number four in the world and won 26 titles, including three WTA 1000s in Cincinnati – she also played singles with distinction, reaching seven finals and achieving a career high of number 41. .
Reflecting on her career after emotional acclaim at the Agel Open in Ostrava, as she declared this season would be her last on the Hologic WTA Tour, Hradecka, 37, struggled to identify her most notable accomplishments.
“I started playing tennis for fun, because I wanted to be like my older sister, Petra,” she said. “I don’t think anyone would have thought that I would go on to win so many titles. I can’t pick one moment, because for me everything is special and has a story about it. I am proud and thankful for everything.”
Hradika was only 6 or 7 years old when her father, Karel, suggested that she try to hit her with a forehand as well as hit her back with both hands. She says she didn’t watch much tennis on TV when she was young and didn’t have an idol, but she remembers having a poster of Monica Seles on her bedroom wall. Something resonated, and the style stuck.
“It has become a huge advantage for me because it has given me strength,” Hradika said. “But sometimes, especially in singles, it makes things more difficult because you give up a meter.”
For a player who grew up in Prague, in the middle of Europe, it is worth noting that Hrdecá did not compete outside of Czech borders until she was 16 or 17 years old. Why do we go out? But finally in one year I only lost a few junior matches and he said, “Okay, let’s try to play some international tournaments.”
The rest is history, and of all the accolades she’s won, her country’s tennis legacy obviously holds a lot of meaning for Hradika.
“It’s unbelievable to be such a small part of this,” she said. “When we won our first title in the Czech Republic in 2011, I was very nervous. Kvita [Peschke] And I went to the court with a score of 2-2, so it was about my husband. I was very new to everything, but Kveta gave me what I needed on the court, helping me stay calm and focused on every point.
“We won and that was amazing. The first FA Cup win of our generation. Over the next few years we felt like, OK, why not do it again? We had a great team with Lucy. [Safarova] and Petra [Kvitova] And we took turns winning the important rubber – it means a lot to the player. And every time we played at home, people lifted us up and I think it was a huge advantage for us as well.”
As it turns out, Hradecka’s last home match saw her mating with Linda Noskova, the 17-year-old rookie who recently replaced Coco Gauff as the youngest player on the Top 100. In the first round, but Hradecka was philosophical.
“It’s time to say goodbye and focus on the little ones,” Hradika said. “I am happy to share my experience. If they learn something from me and remember it one day, it makes me happy.”
Characteristically modest, smiling, she added, “I have one unfulfilled wish: I wanted to win the WTA singles title. But I am very happy with my career.”
For now, Hradecka is looking forward to more time at home, but it’s clear that tennis will play an important role in her next class.
“My sister has a tennis school and I love helping children – for me, a smile from a child is everything. So, I will help her train and practice and then we will see.”