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For years, Barbora Krejcikova shined brightest so long as someone else was by her side. In 2021, she stepped out of the shadows and enjoyed greater success than ever before, evolving from also-ran to eloquent elder stateswoman in less than 12 months.

Long the lesser-known partner of doubles No. 1 Katerina Siniakova—herself a capable singles player who scored a win over Serena Williams this season—Krejcikova battled against becoming a doubles specialist, managing a near-impossible schedule that took her from major trophy ceremonies with Siniakova to far-flung ITF Pro Circuit tournaments on a weekly basis.

The global pandemic presented the Czech an opportunity to make one last push. She opted against a 2020 US Open appearance to play a series of smaller events at home before Roland Garros. Making just her second major main draw appearance, she battled into the second week.

“I've been trying to break into the Top 100 for so long,” she recalled in Paris last fall. “Every time I was really close, I couldn't really make it, so this time we got the stop, we got the break. I think I was No. 116 or something. Then I was like, ‘Okay, now is the time to break it.

“Coming to this tournament I tried to change my mind with this. I was just like, ‘Okay, maybe I will never make it. Maybe I'm just going to be just a doubles player, okay? It's fine.’ I kind of like realized it, I was okay with that. I just went here, I just wanted to play every single match.”

For me, representing Czech and being Czech, knowing the history, knowing how people were brave and strong, it's really a big motivation and it's really inspiring. Barbora Krejcikova

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She returned to the terre battue six months later and indeed played every match—in both disciplines. Fresh off her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg, Krejcikova roared into the semifinals, demolishing opposition from Elina Svitolina to Sloane Stephens with a pristinely-timed extreme grip forehand.

When it came time to play the biggest matches of her career, it was her doubles experience that carried her to thrilling wins over Maria Sakkari and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova—saving match points against the former—and helped her claim the first sweep of Roland Garros’ singles and doubles titles in over two decades.

“It's something I have always dreamed about, from winning my first doubles title here, some more doubles titles, then winning the mixed ones,” she said. “Now I was just telling myself, ‘It would be really nice if I can get the Grand Slam in all three categories!’”

Alone on the singles court, Krejcikova is never entirely on her own, frequently crediting the spirit of late coach and former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna with helping her navigate the highs and lows of a whirlwind season.

“She's looking after me right now,” she said. “That's actually why I have this many Grand Slams, because she's somewhere above looking after me. She wants me to win. She knows what it means to me, and I know what it would mean to her.”

Krejcikova dealt with a number of close calls during her title run, all the way down to the final point.

Krejcikova dealt with a number of close calls during her title run, all the way down to the final point.

Her patriotism and reverence for the greats that came before her was on full display throughout the year: first when she and Siniakova stood atop the Olympic podium in Tokyo, and later when they ended the season with a win at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara.

Krejcikova, who also qualified for the year-end championships in singles for the first time, took time to acknowledge the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, that which overthrew the communist government that once rendered Martina Navratilova a non-person upon her defection to the United States.

“We had very brave Czechoslovakian students and citizens and they went outside to the streets and they had been demonstrating against the non-democratic regime we had then,” she explained as Navratilova, who was on court to present the trophy that bore her name, wiped back tears. “Thanks to them and their sacrifice, my generation can live in a beautiful country back home and we can live without any restrictions and with freedom.”

“For me, representing Czech and being Czech, knowing the history, knowing how people were brave and strong, it's really a big motivation and it's really inspiring,” she further elaborated after the match.

One could argue Krejcikova enacted her own revolution in 2021. She swung through the ties that had bound, allowing her to at last unleash her full potential. Far from a reluctant surprise champion, she is eager to become one of the sport’s leading lights; from her on-court consistency and off-court poise, it’s clear hers is a revolution that is here to stay.

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WATCH: Krejcikova displayed profound poise in her recognition of the Velvet Revolution during the WTA Finals trophy ceremony.