#NextGenATP Czech faces Bublik in first round

Czech stars Tomas Berdych and Jiri Lehecka have made their mark at Wimbledon over the years, with the former reaching the final in 2010 and the latter enjoying a breakout run to the fourth round last year.

Now, 18-year-old #NextGenATP star Jakub Mensik is hoping to be the next man from his country to shine at The Championships this week when he makes his tournament debut.

“I have spoken to Tomas and Jiri before a little about grass. I watched Tomas on TV playing here when I was young, watching him in the final I think in 2010. It was an early memory and an amazing performance,” Mensik told ATPTour.com. “Then Jiri [Lehecka], who I know well, was playing really well here last year and with this game style, it's obvious that he can play really well here. I have a pretty similar style to Tomas and Jiri and now for me to be here is something special.

“I have showed to myself in the past weeks after my first events on grass that I can play also on this surface, so that's great and I'm looking forward to it and I think I can follow [their success].”

The 13-time tour-level titlist Berdych earned victories against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic en route to the final in 2010, while he also reached the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017. After retiring in 2019, Berdych started coaching 22-year-old Lehecka, but his charge is missing this year’s event due to injury.

Step forward Mensik, who has been one of the breakout stars on the ATP Tour this season. The Czech started the year at No. 167 in the PIF ATP Rankings and rose to a career-high No. 65 in May, reaching his maiden ATP Tour final in Doha.

Having only made his tour-level debut at the US Open last September, the experiences of competing on the Tour are new and exciting for Mensik, who won his first tour-level match on grass in Mallorca last week.

“I'm super happy with my year and I am just playing and enjoying every moment on court and the new challenges. Grass for my game style is really good,” Mensik said. “Also, it's my first events on the grass courts on the ATP Tour this year. I just played before two years ago, Wimbledon juniors, so I don't have too much experience on grass. That is why in 's-Hertogenbosch and in Halle I was finding myself on grass and Mallorca was good.

“It is so different to hard and clay but it's so special. To play my whole life on hard or clay, to finally play on something different is special. Wimbledon is really beautiful. I had my first hit here, so I feel really good and the facilities here are just unbelievable.”

Mensik earned clay-court wins at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid earlier this year but was forced to miss Roland Garros due to a right arm injury. The 18-year-old is feeling fully fit ahead of Wimbledon after his Paris setback.

“After the injury that meant I missed Roland Garros, it was also very difficult to find the form and to keep the same level,” Mensik said. “We had a pretty tough decision not to play Roland Garros because of my right arm. But after that we did a lot of research, we visited a lot of doctors, so we started slow. Then I started to practise, play a couple of tournaments before Wimbledon and I'm feeling much better.”

Mensik faces Alexander Bublik in the first round at Wimbledon. A good run at SW19 will help further boost Mensik’s chances of competing at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF in December, with the Czech second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah.

“Before the season, I set the goal to qualify for Jeddah and to play there. I think that I'm doing pretty well so far and it would be great to play this kind of event because for us young players it is pretty exciting,” Mensik said. “It is a good opportunity to see how it works and to taste something from the background of the ATP. I think that is what I want to play at the end of this season.”

For now, Mensik’s focus remains at Wimbledon and on his match against Bublik on Monday when he will try to earn victory.