Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 24, 2024

Berdych On Lehecka: ‘He Has A Bright Future’

Former world No. 4 reflects on rise of fellow Czech

Jiri Lehecka

Jiri Lehecka is competing in the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he has drawn a qualifier in the first round. Ahead of the competition, the tournament is sharing features on ATP stars courtesy of ATPTour.com. This story on Lehecka was first published in March 2023.

Jiri Lehecka began the 2022 season as the No. 141 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Little did the Czech know that 14 months later, he would be one of the most dangerous players on the ATP Tour.

Plenty of people have taken notice of the 21-year-old, who is into the world’s Top 50 after advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals and the Doha semi-finals. One of those people is former world No. 4 Tomas Berdych, who spent a couple days with his countryman in Dubai.

“He’s very young. But what I’ve seen, it’s really the way he’s composed with his game. I think it’s very good,” Berdych told ATP Media in Dubai. “What I like is his fitness preparation or his body being strong and some of the young kids, they might struggle with it. They need more muscles or lack power. That’s definitely not his case, which I like.”

Read More: Lehecka, Shevchenko attend men’s draw ceremony for the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

(l-r) ATP players Alexander Shevchenko and Jiri Lehecka; Salah Talak, Joint-COO of Dubai Duty Free and Tournament Director; Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free; Nasser Yousef Al-Marzouqi, Secretary General of the UAE Tennis Federation; Ramesh Cidambi, COO Dubai Duty Free; Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President Marketing, Dubai Duty Free; Ahmed Abdel-Azim, ATP Supervisor

Berdych even compared Lehecka to himself, calling his game and that of the 2022 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up “very similar”. That is high praise from a man who earned 640 tour-level wins and 13 titles during his illustrious career.

“Even he mentioned it many times, so it’s nice to hear for me when somebody took a bit of that inspiration,” Berdcyh said. “It’s funny to hear, he was 10, 11 when we won the Davis Cup, so he was really [a] kid and we were doing really well. So you already start to see those differences in ages, but other than that, very good. I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Berdych was returning home from vacation and decided to stop at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to get a closer look at Lehecka. He is friends with Lehecka’s coach, Michal Navratil, so it was natural. Although Berdych sat in Lehecka’s box for his match against Alexander Zverev, there are no plans for collaboration at this time.

“I was always the guy going by the instinct and by the constant feeling at the moment, so we will see how things develop, how it goes,” Berdych said. “[There are] not any commitments put on the table yet, which I don’t think is necessary. His team is good, is strong. They’re doing well, they’re doing a good job, so just maybe in the right time, right moment, we will see.”

For now, the 37-year-old is happy to see a man from his country surging. For a long time, Berdych and Radek Stepanek carried the Czech flag near the top of the sport. Will Lehecka be next?

“I think after a bit of a slow period after maybe myself and Radek — we stopped and we left the stage to the other guys — then I think he’s definitely the one that should carry the flag and go forward,” Berdych said. “That’s also one of the reasons [why I went to Dubai]. I just want to stop by and see him more personally, closely. We’ll see how things develop, how things go. Good stuff.”

Photos: Men’s Draw Ceremony at the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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