Lucie Hradecka's talents on a singles court were never doubted. The hard-hitting Czech born in Prague always had the game to trouble any player on any given day, but the 30-year-old just couldn't seem to find the same balance that she finds on a doubles court. A great doubles player, Hradecka's résumé holds 19 doubles title, two of which were Grand Slams won with compatriot Andrea Hlavackova. However, the champion of 19 ITF singles titles has never won a title at a tour-level event, despite making seven finals in her career.
Coming into 2015, Hradecka was aiming to change that. Before heading to Melbourne, the Czech successfully qualified and won a round at the ASB Classic, giving her some much-needed confidence as she attempted to qualify for the Australian Open. Those wins were the boost that Hradecka needed as she won all three rounds of qualifying, earning herself a place in the main draw. A little while later, the 30-year-old was drawn to play fifth seed Ana Ivanovic.
Ivanovic was on a high. After a stellar 2014 season, the Serb started her 2015 campaign on the right foot, making it all the way to the final of the Brisbane International before losing to top seed Maria Sharapova.
The former world number one started the match in emphatic style, taking the opening set 6-1 in 21 minutes. However, Hradecka was not prepared to fade away so quickly. The big-serving Czech fought through and won all of her service games before grabbing a decisive break at 4-3, which she capitalized on to win the second set 6-3. The third set was all Hradecka. The 30-year-old was determining the outcome of most points with either a big winner or a poor unforced error and after getting off to a relatively slow start, the Czech couldn't seem to miss. After grabbing an early break at 1-all, the 30-year-old put her foot on the accelerator, breaking once more at 4-2 before successfully serving out the match to claim a big 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.
"I was so nervous in the beginning. My hand was shaky," Hradecka said. "But I played one time against Ana before, at Wimbledon five years ago, and I had two match points, so my goal was if I had match point this time to finish it. And I'm so happy I did it this time."
Given all of her success in 2014, Ivanovic failed to make it past the quarter finals at all four Grand Slams, and only made the second week of a major once in the process.
"I think it's just mentally how you approach each match," A disappointed Ivanovic explained. "I really felt good before the tournament started. I had a great week in Brisbane. The level was really high. But you just have to accept that you're going to have tough days and you got to go through the tough days to improve. I'm such a perfectionist and sometimes I judge myself too much."
"I think the whole match I didn't really feel like myself out there," Ivanovic said. "It was really tough to find my rhythm a little bit, and in the third set, I really felt like she raised her level on the court."
"It's really disappointing. It's probably the worst thing that could happen."