On March 7, Marie Bouzkova achieved a new milestone when she defeated Johanna Konta to reach her first WTA final in Monterrey. A day later, Bouzkova would fall to top seed Elina Svitolina in three tight sets. Around the same time that battle finished, Indian Wells began what evolved into a five-month shutdown on tour.
The Czech, whose family relocated to Bradenton, Fla. when she was 10, kept plugging away as the weeks of inactivity passed by. Even with increasing her course load for her business degree, Bouzkova hardly let up on training, and it's shown this week in Lexington, K.Y. The 22-year-old has dropped serve just once in each of her two singles wins, which included a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Konta, the No. 3 seed. She's also scored a pair of doubles successes alongside Jil Teichmann, with the duo eliminating "McCoco"—Coco Gauff and Caty McNally—in their opener.
TENNIS.com spoke with Bouzkova for a Zoom catch-up prior to Friday's quarterfinals, where she'll look to continue her winning ways against American Jennifer Brady.
Earlier this week, you shared how busy you’ve been with your studies, but maybe it’s time for you to teach a class on stress management. You’ve really seemed to continue the level you had before the break this week. How satisfied are you with the way you’ve handled the stress of starting back up again and being able to produce on your terms so far?
Even though I wasn’t playing any tournaments throughout these five months, I was always trying to keep myself active mentally. When I’m playing well, it’s when I’m mentally focused and just not giving up any points. I tried to keep doing the same as I was doing before. I was forcing myself at times, because it seemed endless, the break. I’m happy I’m still able to maintain my focus through all these matches.
During the break, did you ever have a period where you just said, you know what, ‘I’m not a tennis player today. I’m going to sleep when I want, eat what I want, watch as much TV as I want,’ and not worry?
Not really. Just the first week when I came back from Mexico, I took a week off. I started practicing but then I needed to take out my wisdom teeth. So I didn’t play for like 10 days. That was the only time I took a break. I felt like I’m motivated and wanted to keep working on my game and maybe improve my overall level of everything. I was looking forward to [doing] that in those months.
In getting your wisdom teeth pulled, did you end up saying anything crazy to your family when you first came out of the surgery?
Actually, I wasn’t asleep. They did a local [anesthesia]. I just had one half taken out five years ago and then I never had time to take out the other half, so I just figured I should do it now because I’m never ever going to get five months off. The doctor told me, if you want to fall asleep, then you’re going to feel a little bit drunk. And I said, ‘Well you know what, it’s OK. I never felt drunk in my life yet, so I’m just going to wait for it still.’
Who have you practiced with in Lexington so far? And how much have you enjoyed the chance to see some familiar faces, even in a socially-distanced environment?
Being all these months away, I’ve practiced mostly with my coach. So it felt nice when I got here to play with some girls. I practiced here with Jil (Teichmann), who I’m playing doubles with. I miss the faces, so it’s refreshing.
Can you illustrate for us how other parts of a tennis player’s daily routine has been different this week? Whether it’s meal planning, requesting treatment, anything that helps paint the picture of your first experience in this new normal.
You always have to be aware of where your mask is at all times. I think it’s great. Nobody is really being in large groups. We talk to each other but we’re aware that we need to pay attention to where we are and what we do. We have to schedule our treatments now. Before we would just go to the training room and get our treatment there, or wait there. Now everybody is in the hotel, not at the site anymore. You have to schedule it in advance, so you have your spot. And of course, we’re not eating out. Either having food from the hotel or ordering in.
I imagine this week has been a good one for trial and error with ordering delivery. Some foods tend to hold up a bit better. What have you done so far?
So far, every day hibachi! We have a hibachi place in Bradenton. I don’t know why we’ve never ordered in all these months. So now I’m missing it. I need a refill of hibachi so that’s what I’m going to do.
With encouragement from Brett Haber, your beloved on-court water jug now has a name, the Bouzie Bottle. There’s a lot of real estate to work with–have thought about beautifying it in some way, maybe some stickers, words of encouragement, a shoutout to a family member that TV can catch?
My dad was telling me on the bottom, I should put two eyes that are able to move. But I was like, ‘let me think about it.’ Maybe I should do something more subtle to start with. If Brett’s going to give me some advice, I’ll definitely take it. If he has some stickers that I should put on, I’ll take his recommendation.
In studying for your business degree, is there a subject you ended up liking more than you anticipated going in?
I’ve always liked math and I’m taking a statistics class right now. I always try to have 100 percent all the time, because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to tennis and studies even more. So I’m enjoying that class. I was surprised with my speech class, because I’m always shy to talk in front of class.