There are the top players, who pick and choose their schedules carefully and build in some rest time. And then, there’s Klara Zakopalova.
****An update on the ironwoman: she pulled out of the doubles in Florianopolis, but has reached the singles final with an upset win over Carla Suárez Navarro, who defeated her in the Fed Cup tie that started this whole quest.***
The Czech veteran (she turns 32 today) has been on a ridiculous stretch of travel andn play that’s exhausting just to catalog, never mind actually do.
The odyssey sort of started on Jan. 31 on an indoor court Paris, when after a semifinal loss in a match tiebreak in the doubles with partner Monica Niculescu.
She then completely changed conditions, to an outdoor clay court in Seville, Spain. That Fed Cup tie would prove to be a marathon.
Saturday, Feb. 8: Waiting, and hoping
Seville, Spain: Zakopalova (who was stepping in for an under-the-weather Lucie Safarova) waited around all day and evening to play the second singles rubber for the Czech Republic.
But it was in vain as the first rubber was only completed after about six hours of waiting.
Sunday, Feb 9: The Rain, in Spain
Seville, Spain: Zakopalova finally got court against Maria Teresa Torro-Flor, going up a set and 2-0 before the rain quashed any hope of play for the rest of Sunday.
Monday, Feb. 10: Can we get this over with?
Seville, Spain: Held over to the Monday, Zakopalova finally put it away, 63 26 61. Because of the delay, she had to return to the court barely a half-hour later to take on Spanish No. 1 Carla Suarez Navarro in the reverse singles.
After breezing through the first set 6-1, Zakopalova drops the second 6-3. After about two hours, Zakopalova drops the rubber, 16 63 63.
Not surprisingly, she’s excused from the deciding doubles, which the Czechs would win.
A little rest? Not for the wicked. The next stop is Doha.
And from Seville, this is not exactly an easy itinerary. To say there are no direct flights would be to assess it correctly. Also, a three-hour time difference.
Tuesday, Feb. 11: Hello, Doha!
Doha, Qatar: Time change, travel woes, and a surface (and climate) change from sodden to desert, from terre battue to hard.
Practice time to acclimate? Nah.
Zakopalova gets on court against a very good player in Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine and beats her in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
Wednesday, Feb. 12: Double duty
Doha, Qatar: A tough task, in No. 9 seed Ana Ivanovic, who passed on Davis Cup and therefore is fresh and rested.
No problem: Zakopalova wins 46 61 63.
Not enough tennis for you? How about a little doubles action? Zakopalova and Niculescu upset the No. 8 seeds, Kristina Mladenovic and Flavia Pennetta (ITA), 46 64 [10-2].
Thursday, Feb. 13: Let’s keep it going!
Doha, Qatar: Zakopalova’s run ends in singles, with a 62 63 loss to No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.
But no problem in doubles, as she and Niculescu defeat Hao-Ching Chan and Liezel Huber 63 63
Friday, Feb. 14: Valentine’s special!
Doha, Qatar: No hearts for Zakopalova, as she and Niculescu lose 6-1, 6-1 to Shuai Peng and Su-Wei Hsieh, who will become the new No. 1 doubles team on the WTA Tour come Monday.
Next stop? Not for Zakopalova the short hop to Dubai for the nearby event there.
Let’s head down to Brazil!
This is not an insignificant hop. It’s about a 14-hour flight from Doha to Brazil. And then another plane change and another three-hour flight. And a seven-hour time change. And Zakopalova is the top seed.
Tuesday, Feb. 18: Anyone for doubles?
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Zakopalova defeats Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia 64 64.
Not done yet, she and Czech Fed Cup teammate Barbora Zahlavova Strycova defeat Hsieh (playing with sister Shu-Ying) 60 62 in the first round of doubles.
Wednesday, Feb. 19: Another day, another win.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Zakopalova defeats Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain 64 61.
It was a pretty slack day, though; no doubles. She probably went to run a 10K.
Thursday, Feb. 20: A little half-day
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Klara Zakopalova and Zahlavova Strycova defeat Lyudmyla and Nadiya Kichenok of Ukraine 63 62 to move into the doubles semifinals.
Friday, Feb. 21: The slacking is over
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Another full day at the office, as Zakopalova defeats Katarzyna Piter of Poland 64 60.
Unfortunately, she’s done in doubles – but not without a battle – after losing to Irina-Camelia Begu and Maria Irigoyen 62 67 (5) [10-8].
Saturday, Feb. 22: To the finals she goes
Sunday: Feb. 23: The stage is hers
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: There was only one match on the WTA Tour Sunday. And it seems fitting that it involved Klara Zakopalova.
The Japanese player takes full advantage of all the tennis played on the other side of the net, earning her first career WTA title.
And there’s no rest for the wicked: Zakopalova heads to her next stop, Florianopolis, where she is the No. 3 seed and will face Donna Vekic of Croatia in the first round.
And yes, there is doubles as well.
Zahlavova Strycova is the top seed with Vania King this week. But Zakopalova is back with Paris and Doha partner Monica Niculescu. They are the second seeds.
Monday, Feb. 24: NO MATCH
Florianapolis, Brazil: WHAT?????????
What the heck is Zakopalova going to do with herself?
Oh, that’s a great idea.
She’ll be back with a double-header on Tuesday. Natch.
To sum up: from Feb. 9 to Feb. 23 (15 days), the ironwoman of tennis rolled through four cities, three time zones, going from indoor hard to wet outdoor clay to outdoor hard in chilly temperatures, and back to outdoor clay in rather more balmy conditions.
And she played 16 matches (10 singles, six doubles).
That deserves a serious award.
Happy birthday to the woman whose maiden name was Koukalova. That pretty much sums up this odyssey.