The Czech republic has produced a real variety of tennis players - baseliners, serve and volleyers, and all courters - who have left their mark on the sport. The Czechs took on the tennis world domination of the four slam hosting countries and then changed the way players both played their game and took care of their fitness.
Czechoslovakia considered tennis trophies as symbols of their success on the world stage. Tennis was a mainly western sport with the USA, UK, France and Australia leading the way until Czechoslovakia broke up that dominance when Martina Navrátilová and Ivan Lendl reached the top.
Both Navrátilová and Lendl defected from the communist regime and became US citizens. Navrátilová defected in 1975 while she was competing in the US Open. Ivan Lendl defected, with Navrátilová’s help in the early 1980s. Lendl has said that he and Navrátilová would not have achieved their great success unless they had defected.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the formation of the Czech Republic and the growth of the economy, tennis infrastructure has improved with more covered courts available so players can train and practice all year round. The game has become so popular since the success of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams that even with the increased facilities, players have to book a court far in advance.
Martina Navrátilová is an all time great in the women’s game. She won 18 slams and was No.1. She won Wimbledon a record 9 times, her first title in 1978 and her last in 1990.
Navrátilová had issues with her weight early in her career and then went on a strict fitness regime which influenced how fitness was seen in the tennis world.
Ivan Lendl - after finishing runner up in his first four slam finals, Lendl went on to win 8 slams, 5 Masters Grand Prix titles and become No.1, a position he held for 270 weeks.
Ivan Lendl redefined men’s tennis with his aggressive baseline game. He was one of the first players to hit the ball hard on every stroke from the baseline on both clay and hard courts and his influence was seen in the games of Courier and Agassi in the early to mid 90s.
Did you know?
When Lend’s opponent was at the net, he would sometimes hit the ball as fast as possible right into his body to discourage him from going there again or at least to give it a second thought. And he wasn't afraid to use this tactic even against his biggest rivals in front of hostile crowds - just ask John McEnroe.
Hana Mandlíková won 4 slam titles. On the way to the 1985 US Open title, she beat Martina Navrátilová and Chris Evert back to back, which no one had done at a slam since Tracy Austin at the US Open 1979.
Jan Kodeš won three grand slams in the early 1970s - twice French Open and a Wimbledon crown.
Jana Novotná won the 1998 Wimbledon title, beating Nathalie Tauziat in the final. In 1993, when she was runner up to Steffi Graf and dropped a 4-1 third set lead, Novotná earned the love of the Wimbledon crowd and the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulders of the Duchess of Kent during the trophy presentation ceremony.
Davis Cup - The Czech republic has won the Davis Cup twice, in 2012 and 2013
Fed Cup - The country has won the Fed Cup six times (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)
At the Olympics, Jana Novotna won three medals- two silvers (doubles in Seoul and Atlanta) and one bronze (singles in Atlanta)
Since 2015, the WTA Prague Open has been an international tournament. Three Czech players have lifted the trophy - Karolina Pliskova, Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova.
The Czech republic has a regional club system where coaches take care of the juniors and the most talented juniors are sent to regional clubs. The very best clubs and some of the players who came through their system are listed below:
Almost every small city has its own club with teams playing regional team competition during the springtime.
The summer season is full of tournaments where players compete as individuals. Clubs organize these tournaments and the higher the level of the tournament, the higher the ranking the players needs to compete. There are the following categories:
Players are allowed to play higher category tournaments - usually in their last year of the younger category. This means they can gain some points for their first year in the next one and do not have to start from zero points.
Jiří Vaněk, a former ATP player who was ranked 74 in 2000, is the coach of Petra Kvitová and he also used to work with Karolína Plíšková.
Ivan Lendl, born in former Czechoslovakia, has coached Andy Murray and helped the Scot finally achieve his potential to win Grand Slam titles. Just like Lendl, Murray lost his first four slam finals, but after the two got together, Murray won the US Open title in 2012 and then followed that win up with the Wimbledon 2013 title. Lendl and Murray split in Spring 2014. When they reunited in Summer 2016, Lendl once again helped Murray return to Grand Slam winning ways as Murray won his second Wimbledon title. Lendl also coached Murray to the No.1 ranking in 2016 as well as the World Tour Finals championship in London where Murray defeated Djokovic in the final and sealed the year-end No.1 ranking. Lendl has also worked with Sascha Zverev.