Q & A: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova


Originally published on: 23/06/11 13:49

When tennishead caught up with the Czech star, she talked about ice baths, having her husband as a coach and the goosbumps she gets just thinking about Fed Cup…

At 5ft 4in you are one of the smaller players on tour. Do you think that gives you an advantage or disadvantage?
Well I move pretty well but sometimes I don’t have so much power. So, maybe if I would be bigger I would have big shots but I like it how I am.

How do you compensate for that? Do you focus more on strength training?
I am stretching a lot every single day, like for one hour a day. And maybe it helps me to straighten my muscles but otherwise I do what every other player does – a lot of physical training.

Before Schiavone and Kuznetsova’s marathon effort this year, you played the longest women’s match at the Australian Open in a 4 hours 19 minute battle in 2010 – how did your body cope with something like that?
Well I was sore after but it was unusual. After you have to have massage, but like recovery massage, but you can’t do so much because you play the next day as well. So if you have a deep massage your body is so tired and the next day you cannot stand up from the bed so you have to watch out for that. You also have to eat right away after the match, something small. And then what I do is, if I play four and a half hour match, I have to take a really cold shower but really, really cold so you cannot stay in the water. Then your body gets a lot of blood inside circulating and it helps so much and you feel really fresh after. 

Have you ever had an ice bath?
I actually did it at the French Open and I was in so much pain. You can’t be there alone because you can actually fall down because you cannot stand you have to hold yourself up.

We spoke to some of the other Czech girls about Pilsen (a town in the Czech Republic where Barbora use to live) and it appears to be both a tennis town and a beer town…
It is, we have great beer. My sister use to play and I was going there with her. Then I picked up a racket at the tennis club and I started to play against the wall and I really liked it. But at this time I also did figure skating and when I was 12 I had to decide which sport I was going to do because I was pretty good at figure skating.

So you could actually have been a professional figure skater?
Possibly. I can’t imagine it now.

Do you ever do it now?
Yes, I did it in the off-season. I went but I forgot a lot of things. I can’t jump anymore but I can still do the pirouette and these things.

What is it like having your husband as your coach? Was he your coach before he was your husband?
No, no, no. We got married four and a half years ago and right away when we got married, we went three days later to our first tournament and since then he has coached me. It is difficult, it is very difficult. And we see each other every single day for four and a half years and it’s not easy. It’s really not. And sometimes you have to focus on work and then be husband and wife.

Did you have a coach before?
Yes, for five years I had a coach and then it was not working anymore. I was actually looking for a coach and we were like lets try some. Then I won right away the first tournament so we were like, ‘okay, we do it together’. Because he use to be a player – ATP, so he knew about it. It is great but difficult.

What do you think about Fed Cup?
Oh my god, I love team things and I would love to play again.

What is it about the team thing that you like?
It is totally something different because you play for your country and the people are behind you – the team, the girls – and everyone wants to wish you to win. I have now goose bumps talking about it. It’s great. I love it.

It is a shame there aren’t many other team sports that women can play.
It is because sometimes you win a title and then you have to go right away to another tournament, you cannot celebrate it or enjoy it. Sometimes it is very selfish, this sport, it is just about me but when you play in a team it is about all of us. All ten people in the team and it is great.

How do you account for the number of good Czech players coming up at the moment? Is there a good system?
I don’t know. Everyone is training really hard, every body has a good coach – I don’t know why it is like that.

Where do you think you can go? Presumably ideally you would like to be number one.
If I will be it is great but I want to go step by step slow and right now I don’t tell you a number because I don’t know it. I want to enjoy it, I try to play better and better and we will see where it gets me.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.