Lucie Hradecká and Linda Nosková showed strong nerves in the match. At 4:5, they had to fend off two set points, and even if they succeeded, they definitely did not win. The first set reached a tiebreak, in which the Williams sisters already led 5:3.
But the following four exchanges belonged to the Czechs, who seized the first act. In the following, they built up a 4:1 lead, yet they did not ensure a peaceful end to the race. Serena and Venus tied at 4:4, but since then they have played only two exchanges. The joy of the Czech couple could burst.
Arthur Ashe Stadium at night and 23 thousand spectators. How did it affect you?
LN: It took my breath away when I learned that the lottery had sent us against Williams. They are legends. I’ve always been rooting for them, especially Serena. She’s been my idol since forever, so I was happy, excited and scared at the same time that we were going to fight with them. But only at the beginning. I realized that no similar chance would come again, so I enjoyed my stay on the court.
Did it take a while to get used to playing against Serena?
LN: I expected to be very nervous before and at the beginning of the match. But I had no idea that I was playing against legends. I didn’t really notice it, which surprised me.
LH: I think it helped how she went to change. She had to deal with something else, she diverted her thoughts. Something different than if you went there right after the game.
Which moment of the duel was the most outstanding for you?
LN: The last two balls in the tiebreak were good when we played well down the line. It’s a blast to end the set in this style, especially in such an atmosphere. And of course matchball is matchball.
LH: We were leading, we were a step ahead, but the score could still be turned around. But when we converted the match point, I was incredibly happy. Everything fell out of me.
Did it bother you when after your great shots there was only a noise, and on the contrary, after mistakes, the audience roared?
LN: We expected such reactions, so we were not surprised. The spectators didn’t throw us out, it was actually great to hear the roar, although it belonged to the opponents.
LH: I reveled in the noise. It’s certainly better than playing in silence in an empty stadium. In addition, I also heard a few Czech fans.
Linda, you describe the atmosphere as if it were your daily bread…
LN: It probably sounds stupid, but when you’re successful, you completely wipe out the fans. On the contrary, when it doesn’t work for you, you hear and perceive everything more. Fortunately, I’ve never had a problem with this.
Was the match more special for you because it might be the last time we see the Williams sisters on the court together?
LH: Shouldn’t they be with me when I have such a nice balance with them? When I didn’t beat them so many times? I have two wins with them, both here (Hradecká and her partner Andrea Sestini Hlaváčková won in the 2013 semi-finals after sets 6:4, 6:2 – editor’s note). That’s quite pleasing.
But I didn’t take it as their last match. This is the last Grand Slam for me, so I also enjoyed the duel. Quite a few people came to see what might have been my last doubles match here in New York. What else could you wish for? (Laughs)
Really the last one?
LH: I don’t think anything bothers me anymore. There was already a lot of traveling, I don’t want to pack for tournaments and the like.
Lucie, have you ever played the first round of a tournament in front of so many spectators?
LH: Even in singles, I’ve never played in front of so many people. In Australia, I played the first round of singles against Ana Ivanovic on center court. When I beat her, I went to play somewhere on the 18th court, a small sunken court. That was also interesting. I played a bit better on the center court then.
Linda, is this the greatest experience of your career so far?
LN: Definitely, one hundred percent. Each of my personal singles wins is also important, especially the Junior Grand Slam meant a lot to me. But this was one of my dreams. I would be happy just to be able to play against them.
You said you have a poster of Serena at home…
LN: It’s the first thing I see when I come into the room. I don’t know how I got it, but I’ve had it there for a long time.
It would be nice to take a picture together.
LN: That’s a good idea.
LH: How you shake hands. You should ask for that.
LN: The whole atmosphere, it was incredible.
How did you get together here?
LH: I was supposed to play with Mirza since I started playing with her in Dubai. Unfortunately, she was injured in Toronto, where I did not play due to health problems. Then in Cincinnati she finished the hand, flew home and wrote me that she couldn’t play for two or three weeks. That was already past the deadline, the draft sheet had been made. I had a week to find someone. I messed up who was on the substitutes list. We were on the court with the coach, he goes over it and says I could text Linda. She then told me that she was engaged to someone else and did not know if they would get along. But at that moment they were already among the substitutes, they were ninth under the line…
Lucie, you trained here not only with Linda, but also with Sára Bejlek. Do you want to pass on your experience to the younger generation at the end of your career?
LH: I have to say that the training sessions were good. You can see how they are lit. They have their whole careers ahead of them. And if they take something from me, it will only be good.
US Open, New York (US, $60,100,000, hard)
1st round of women’s doubles
HRADECKÁ, NOSKÁVÁ – S. Williams, V. Williams (both USA) 7-6(5), 6-4
Michal Hladký, photo: Twitter – WTA
Lucie Hradecka Linda Nosková