Krajkovikova improves her English, especially the word 'win'
MILTON The distance between Milton and Bratislava, Slovakia is more than 4,700 miles.
That's not quite as far apart as the distance between the skills of Lea Krajkovikova and her opponents.
The Milton High junior and Rotary International foreign-exchange student from Slovakia is proving to be no foreigner to the game of tennis. The 16-year-old's performance this fall has been nothing short of spectacular.
Krajkovikova is 19-0 on the season playing No. 1 singles for the Red Hawks, including a Badger Conference title this past weekend. The soft-spoken Krajkovikova has not dropped a set all season, has trailed in a match only twice and has lost four games in a set only once all season.
Milton coach Dan Thies said his Slovakian phenom is the real deal.
"Her ground strokes are incredible," Thies said. "She has incredible power and placement of all her shots, which is a rare combination in tennis.
"I knew she was good right away the first day of practice, but when we went up to Kohler for our first tournament, she was incredible. She beat a girl that placed at state last year in Division 2, 6-0, 6-1."
Krajkovikova came to America as part of the Rotary International program to, as she put it, "learn something different and learn the English language better."
Despite a successful tennis season in Slovakia last year, Krajkovikova had no expectations when she arrived at Milton. She didn't want to stand out or embarrass any opponents or teammates, so according to Thies, she never hit the ball as hard as she could early on because she didn't want to be rude.
Krajkovikova has been playing tennis since she was seven but is not sure if the sport is in her future. Her big dream is to become a lawyer. She has participated in government-funded tennis clubs—much like an AAU program in the US without the government funding—in Slovakia for many years, which has turned her into a shot-making machine.
"I'm pretty good back home but there are a lot of good players in Slovakia," Krajkovikova said. "There are almost 500,000 people in my hometown, so there are many good players.
"I didn't really know what to expect when I came here (Milton), but as long as I'm winning, I'm happy. Everyone talks about this state tournament coming up and how they want to see me play there, but I don't know anything about it."
Milton begins tournament play in Division 1 on Monday at the Stoughton Subsectional. One of Krajkovikova's biggest obstacles in her bid for a state tournament berth will likely come from Lake Geneva Badger junior Cricket Geldermann at the Badger Sectional. Krajkovikova defeated Geldermann, who qualified for state in 2010, 6-3, 6-4 in August in what has turned out to be her only close match this season. Mequon Homestead junior Elizabeth Konon is the defending Division 1 state champion, and Thies would love to see Krajkovikova get a shot at her.
"Lea doesn't get invested emotionally in her matches," Thies said. "And the farther along she goes in the tournament, I think that will work as an advantage for her. She got down 0-3 in the title match at the Badger Conference Tournament, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she went out and dominated by winning 12 of the next 15 games.
"Her form is flawless and she's always in the right spot on the court. She's as good as I've seen."
Lea Krajkovikova has nine more months in the States. That's plenty of time to further distance herself from the competition.
ABOUT THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC
-- The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 square miles).
In comparison, Wisconsin has an area of 65,497 square miles. West Virginia is closest to The Slovak Republic in square miles at 24,231.
-- Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south.
-- The largest city is the capital, Bratislava—Lea Krajkovikova's hometown—and the second largest is Košice.
-- Slovakia is a member state of the European Union, NATO, United Nations, OECD and WTO among others.
-- The official language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic language family.
-- The Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic went their separate ways after Jan. 1, 1993, an event sometimes called the Velvet Divorce.
-- Slovakia has remained a close partner with the Czech Republic. Both countries cooperate with Hungary and Poland in the Visegrád Group.
Sources: Wikipedia and net-state.com