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A Beginner’s Guide: Serving Strycova Realness

Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova is known for quite a few things in women’s tennis.

Long ago, the Czech native was just another one of the WTA Tour’s more – how you say – colorful characters. A junior prodigy with back-to-back Australian Open girl’s singles titles, Zahlavova-Strycova was having a more difficult time settling into the big leagues, only achieving vague notoriety as an enfant terrible.

With one singles title to her name, she was having much more success in doubles before a doping violation forced her off the Tour. The supplement in question, Acai Berry Thin, often appears in rather amateurish-looking pop-up ads, and certainly pales in comparison to the more nefarious athletic enhancements. Zahlavova-Strycova returned to the game after a six-month suspension.

That return has been, to borrow a turn of phrase from Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva, thunderous. A run to the finals of Birmingham proved to be a mere prelude for what was to come on the hallowed lawns of the All-England Club.

Unseeded, the Czech starlet sent World No. 2 Li Na into retirement with a gutsy straight-sets win. She followed that up with another victory over Caroline Wozniacki to reach her first Grand Slam singles quarterfinal. At the US Open, she pushed Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard to three grueling sets under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium and reached the doubles semifinal with equally hyphenated Kimiko Date-Krumm.

The veteran – often abbreviated to BZS –  has even become a cult figure in diehard tennis circles, captured here in Tokyo teaching youngster Elina Svitolina how to shake hands at the net:

Hers has truly been a remarkable resurgence, one that has put her in spitting distance of the World’s Top 20.

For all that she is known for, serving – at least serving bombs – is not one of them. Until now.

A Grand Slam’s website is typically the most trafficked of any other tournament. We visit them for score updates, draw sheets, schedules, and stats. We hold it to as high a standard as the tournament itself, which makes mistakes like these all the more surprising, but no less comical.

Zahlavova-Strycova isn’t the first to fall victim to statistical error. Five years ago, Francesca Schiavone was on top of the world, capturing her maiden French Open title at 29 years old. Not only did she lead the field in wins, but for a few days of the tournament’s second week, the similarly-sized Schiavone also headlined the serving charts:

Photo: Screengrab from Roland Garros website, circa 5/28/2010.

Photo: Screengrab from Roland Garros website, circa 5/28/2010.

Much as we might want it to be true, the 5’5″ Zahlavova-Strycova is not the service speed leader of the women’s event. She did not, in fact, strike a serve scratching 140 mph.

How do we know? Because she confirmed it on Facebook, in spectacular fashion:

Zahlavova-Strycova may be known for serving high drama on the tennis court, but is clearly more grounded than her player persona would have you believe. Though she lost in the third round to two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, the World No. 23 will likely have more cracks at the game’s elite – and the radar guns – in what promises to be another entertaining season.

What other players would you like profiled in A Beginner’s Guide? Sound off in the comments, along with your favorite BZS moments!

About David Kane (137 Articles)
Sr. Digital Content Producer, WTA Networks.

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