Who is this year’s Next-Gen runner-up? An exciting Czech player with a big game. Here is a Jiri Lehecka player profile.
Jiri Lehecka was born on the 8th of November 2001 in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic. Lehecka is currently coached by a former Czech tennis player and now coach, Michal Navratil. Navratil has coached fellow Czechs Adam Pavlasek and Jiri Vesely and was also a hitting partner for former world number 4 and Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. Standing at 1.85, Lehecka has an excellent game with great net skills and a reliable two-handed backhand.
In 2017, Lehecka competed in his first ITF event in his home nation of the Czech Republic, winning his first qualifying round before falling in the second. The young Czech reached his first Futures final in November 2018 in Ricany, Czech Republic to end the year ranked 1017 in the ATP singles rankings.
As a junior, Lehecka reached the quarter-final of the 2019 Australian Open boys singles, losing out to Emilio Nava. Later in the year, he reached the second round of the Wimbledon boys singles and partnered with fellow Czech Jonas Forejtek, to win the Wimbledon boys doubles trophy. Lehecka then went on to make the quarter-final of the boy’s US Open, before being defeated once again to Emilio Nava. He finished 2019 ranked number 11 in the world in the ITF junior combined rankings.
In September 2020, the Czech began competing on the ATP Challenger tour, reaching the semi-final of the clay court event in Prostejov, Czech Republic. Lehecka defeated three top 200 opponents before losing a tight three-set match to world number 107, Kamil Majchrzak. A week later, the Czech lifted his first ITF trophy, coming back from a set down in the final to beat Sebastian Baez, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Now ranked inside the top 500 of the ATP singles rankings, Lehecka continued to ascend, reaching another ITF final at the end of 2020. He finished the year ranked 351 in singles and 478 in doubles.
In July 2021, Lehecka won his first of two ATP Challenger titles in Tampere, Finland, defeating Nicolas Kicker in the final.
Two months later, the Czech won his second in Bucharest, knocking out the number 1 seed and top 100 player, Stefano Travaglia, along the way to the title.
In September, Lehecka entered his first men’s major qualifying event at the US Open. Lehecka defeated Alexandre Muller in the first round, Illya Marchenko in the second but missed out on a place in the main draw after falling to Cem Ilkel in the third round.
He finished 2021 ranked 141 in singles and 234 in doubles.
Lehecka continued his rise in 2022, reaching the quarter-finals of the Traralgon Challenger in Australia before qualifying for his first major main draw at the Australian Open. Facing 28th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the first round, Lehecka lost in four tight sets.
His most notable tournament result was in Rotterdam at the ATP 500 event. Lehecka came through qualifying before defeating world number 12, Denis Shapovalov, world number 51, Botic van de Zandschulp and fellow Next-Gen player, Lorenzo Musetti to reach the semi-final. The Czech narrowly lost out to world number 4, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
With the run, Lehecka entered the top 100 for the first time, sitting at 95 in the ATP singles rankings.
Lechecka competed in the main draw of the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open for the first time and won his third ATP Challenger in August 2022.
In August 2022, the Czech reached a career-high of 59 and qualified for this year’s Next-Gen Finals tournament in Milan, Italy.
Seeded number 5 in the competition, the Czech defeated Francesco Passaro, Matteo Arnaldi before losing to Brandon Nakashima to finish second in his group.
In the semi-final, he faced the undefeated Dominic Stricker. As the underdog, Lehecka stood up to the task, using his attacking play to upset the Swiss star. In a re-match of their group stage encounter, the Czech faced Brandon Naskhima once again, but this time for the title. Nakashima repeated his win over Lehecka, winning in three tight sets, 4-3(5), 4-3(6), 4-2.
Lehecka is currently the highest-ranked male Czech player and ranked 80th in the world.
The young Czech has said he will ‘focus to keep in the Top 100 and to stay there,’ and aims to ‘make that transition from the ATP Challenger Tour level to ATP Tour level.’
Let’s see if he can continue his rise up the rankings and win his first ATP title next year.