WATCH: Bouzkova reached the Round of 16 at the Mutua Madrid Open before COVID-19 derailed her Roland Garros campaign.

Marie Bouzkova announced her presence on the pro tour with a near-perfect performance against Serena Williams in 2019. Three years later, the Czech is older and wiser—with a college degree to prove it—and, after a tough bout with COVID-19, will have a chance to avenge that defeat when the 23-time Grand Slam champion makes a long-awaited return to action in Eastbourne’s doubles event.

“I think there’s a lot of attention on her here,” Bouzkova said of the buzz around Williams, who last took the court for an official match at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships. “She obviously hasn’t been on tour in quite some time, so it’s nice to see her back and practicing next to us. She’s a role model for so many players. I obviously had a chance to play her in singles some years ago. Now, I’m looking forward to doubles and it will be a special and fun one, for sure!”

Partnered with tour bestie Sara Sorribes Tormo, the amiable 23-year-old Czech will take on Williams and new No. 3 Ons Jabeur in what will likely be the hottest first-round doubles match of the season. In their only previous encounter, Bouzkova enjoyed a fast start in the National Bank Open semifinals—her best result at a WTA 1000 event—before the former No. 1 rallied to win in three sets.

“We will try to get some revenge,” Bouzkova said with a laugh. “Sara and I were getting pumped up for the opportunity but then we had to remind ourselves not to get too carried away for the moment.”

Bouzkova is coming off her own lay-off, having contracted the coronavirus before her Roland Garros second round against Elise Mertens.


“I kind of got all of the symptoms overnight,” she recalled. “We were walking from dinner and all the sudden I thought, ‘I don’t think I can make it back to the hotel.’ My joints started to hurt and my head hurt a lot. Over the night, I had fever and cold shivers, just a little bit of everything but the headaches were the worst. I also felt very sore in my muscles.

“Luckily, that only lasted three days and little by little, I started to feel better. Overall, it took about a week or so before I was feeling well again.”

Roland Garros was already meant to be a triumphant return for the former US Open junior champion, who opted out of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia after a strong run in Madrid to attend her IU East graduation. After years of studying online for a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a minor in sports marketing and management, the decision to interrupt her clay-court schedule was a no-brainer.

“I’ve been looking forward to this moment my whole life, and it was something that was very important to me. It’s an experience I wanted to have in person and with my family, who were also very proud. It was nice to be able to take part in the commencement ceremony alongside the students who had studied both online and on campus. Just having that sort of experience was important to me because it’s something I’ll always remember.”

Traveling home after her positive COVID test, the world No. 65 began an initially slow recovery with some socially distanced walks with her family.

“After five minutes, I would tell my brother that we needed to go back home because I would get so tired and cramped in my muscles!”


For me, it’s always about finding the right balance and knowing that tennis isn’t everything in life. It’s obviously a very big part, but as a person, I have other interests, and within my family, we find happiness in things outside tennis. Marie Bouzkova

It would take a full 10 days from her first positive test to feel back to her best, putting together an impromptu training bloc before her singles comeback ended with a three-set defeat to Shelby Rogers. The challenge, then, of facing Serena before a major tournament presents a unique opportunity for Bouzkova to rediscover the feeling of big-match pressure.

“I love to play on grass and it was unfortunate that I couldn’t get more tournaments before Wimbledon. I did a lot of good things in my singles match but maybe just felt a bit rusty. Coming off the court, I was just looking forward to Wimbledon, but now there’s doubles, so Sara and I looking forward to that. We’ll use the days here for practice and get ready as best as I can for Wimbledon.”

Where tennis can feel all-consuming for others, Bouzkova has managed an impressive work-life dynamic, even in spite of a pandemic-impacted career. Whether it was in the classroom or on the train for a solo trip to Alaska, she has made a point to be more than her matches, something that shows no signs of changing regardless of how she figures into the Serena Williams Comeback Tour.

“For me, it’s always about finding the right balance and knowing that tennis isn’t everything in life. It’s obviously a very big part, but as a person, I have other interests, and within my family, we find happiness in things outside tennis. It’s important to keep things interesting while also making the most of life while I’m playing tournaments and having the opportunity to travel around the world. There are so many things we can pursue besides tennis, so I feel fortunate to have this kind of combination.”

Still, there’s no doubt Wimbledon looms large on her mind. It has already influenced her emojis.

“It’s the grass season, so I’m obviously sending a lot of strawberries!”