Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova has never drawn much media attention, especially from English-speaking publications. Although I’ve watched her play a lot of matches, I realized recently that I didn’t know much about her off the court.
I did some digging to find out more about the under-the-radar Czech, who has reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, and will play compatriot Petra Kvitova tomorrow for a spot in the Wimbledon final.
1. We’ve all been pronouncing her name really wrong.
Although it seems as if Lucie herself is okay with the Americanized version of her last name, it’s not correct.
@AmyFetherolf Phonetically? "Shu-fa-zha-va," would be pretty damned close, how I say it when I can't make that "ř," work.
— Kelly (@MungoNGus) July 2, 2014
— AdamG (@aeg772) July 2, 2014
Here’s a video of the correct pronunciation:
That’ll take some getting used to.
2. For someone who’s been around so long, it’s pretty remarkable how few interview transcripts are available for Safarova. There aren’t even any transcribed interviews with her from this year’s Wimbledon available publicly yet, which is crazy.
This was my favorite exchange from her very short list:
Q. Are you going to play at Forest Hills?
LUCIE SAFAROVA: Ah, the Forest Hills tournament is canceled since last year, so I cannot play that.
Q. Can you just tell me about your T-shirt? Does it mean anything special?
LUCIE SAFAROVA: No. (laughter.)
3. She started playing tennis when she was three years old to copy her older sister Veronika, and her father, Milan, coached her when she was young.
4. She’s quite good at doubles. The Czech has been ranked as high as No. 15 in the WTA doubles rankings back in February, and has won four career doubles titles. She’s played most frequently with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrea Hlavackova, and has reached four Slam doubles quarterfinals in the last two years.
“Singles is the priority, but I really enjoy doubles,” she said. “Especially with the team spirit because tennis is such an individual sport. Tennis you’re alone on the court and suddenly there is someone else there! I like the interaction.”
She credits at least a fraction of her doubles prowess to the fact that it was a requirement for junior players in the Czech Republic. Players’ doubles rankings would contribute to their overall ranking, which forced her to build a doubles skill set at a young age.
5. She’s and Andrea Hlavackova are childhood friends.
Here’s a fun video of them dancing after winning the 2012 Fed Cup final:
6. Okay, you probably know this one, but she dated fellow Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych for nine years, before what sounds like an amicable split. They were pretty cute together, and I needed an excuse to use this picture:
The Czech tabloids had fun with the breakup, speculating on how the two would divide the price of the house they lived at together based on prize money earned by each player.
She talked a little bit about the split in an interview with TennisNow:
“It was a first love which is always strong,” Safarova said. “I think we came to the point where it was just not going the right way and both of our personalities became different. It just happens. Our breakup was very normal. We didn’t have fights or anything.”
While she admits the split was difficult, she acknowledges that it changed her perspective on her life and her career for the better. “I discovered more of myself which was great,” she explained. “Since I was 15, I was sharing everything with a person and suddenly I was there alone. At the beginning it was frightening, but it was good to also know what I like for myself and what I like to do.”
7. If she weren’t playing tennis, she would be drawn to physiotherapy or psychology.
8. When she was young, she had a chance to hit with one of her tennis idols, Steffi Graf. She talks about it in this video:
9. She speaks Czech, German, and English.
10. Here’s a cute piece about her parents traveling to London to see her compete at Wimbledon this year. It’s in Czech, but you can read it through Google Translate.