WATCH: Bouzova retires with hand injury against Kvitova in Madrid.

Advertising

When a tumble in the Cája Magica put her clay-court swing in doubt, Marie Bouzkova took what remained of her Roland Garros preparation into her own hands.

Her left hand, specifically.

“Everyone in the club tried to beat me,” Bouzkova exclaimed over the phone this week, “but some of those guys owe some dinners to me because they couldn’t beat me, not even as a lefty!”

Bouzkova was on course for a classic against three-time Mutua Madrid Open champion Petra Kvitova, when she endured a hard landing early in the second set. Adrenaline carried her to a break advantage before she realized anything was wrong.

“It didn’t look like anything serious,” she said. “I fell, got back up, and was ready to play the point. As I was about to serve, I saw my whole thumb was swollen, so I would have never thought I’d broken it the way I did.”

She was first put in touch with the doctor who repaired Kvitova’s own hand back in 2016, and would later discover a stress fracture and a chipped bone, forcing her into a cast, out of the following week's Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, and onto the brink of missing Roland Garros.

“I think I had a great start to the season,” says Bouzkova, who after the Australian Open finished second at the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne and made the semis of Guadalajara. “I felt really confident in my game, and so it’s unfortunate what has happened during the clay-court season. Still, I don’t feel like the year is that far gone, so I just want to get my rhythm back in matches and be strong again.”

Bouzkova opted to remain in Spain and spent the break based in Barcelona, alternating between mountain and beach workouts that focused on the lower body and taking the court for practice—by any means necessary.

“I’ve been doing fitness for something like five hours a day for the past few weeks, doing what I could with the upper body," she says, "but 90 percent of the work was spent on the lower body, and I also improve my lefty game as well.”

Advertising

Bouzkova pushed Bianca Andreescu to three sets at Roland Garros in 2019, foreshadowing a breakthrough summer and Top 100 debut. (Getty Images)

Bouzkova pushed Bianca Andreescu to three sets at Roland Garros in 2019, foreshadowing a breakthrough summer and Top 100 debut. (Getty Images)

The Barcelona bloc also kept the 22-year-old training on the terre battue, a surface she’s learned to love in her short time on tour.

“I was practicing well and was just waiting to get a good result on clay in a tournament. I was really looking to break up that rhythm where I wasn’t getting that many wins on clay, because I would say this is the best I’ve ever felt on clay after all these years.”

Unlike many of the sport’s European talents, Bouzkova honed her game on hard courts, at a club owned by her parents in Prague. Though that concrete development paid off when she won the junior US Open title in 2014, it wasn’t until she partnered with Spanish coach Cristian Requeni that she began to feel more capable on clay—and began this year's swing with a doubles final in Charleston.

“He’s encouraged me to slide a bit more and make some small adjustments that are so necessary on the surface.”

Her most notable clay-court clash came two years ago at Roland Garros. As a lucky loser, she pushed Bianca Andreescu to three sets in her main-draw debut.

“That match was really good quality, and it even lasted two days! It was really close and looking back, it showed me how capable I really was of playing a good match on clay.”

I believe if we all work together, we can ease up the protocols, and little by little, we’ll get back to some degree of normality.

Advertising

Bouzkova, who spent her off-season exploring Alaska, drew countrywoman Katerina Siniakova for her French Open first-round match—no easy task given Siniakova’s win over 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams at the Emilia-Romagna Open just last week.

Even if Paris doesn’t go as planned, the ever-optimistic Bouzkova is fit, fully vaccinated, and eager for an unforgettable summer.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with more and more people are getting vaccinated," she says. "I got vaccinated myself in Charleston, so I believe if we all work together, we can ease up the protocols, and little by little, we’ll get back to some degree of normality. I think I’ve made the most of dealing with the protocols because that’s what you have to do.

“It will be so nice to be able to go for dinners and maybe take a walk. Those little things would feel like a huge step forward, and that’s really all I need during a tournament that we haven’t had in since this all started.”