What you can learn from Jiri Lehecka about power tennis – and what you shouldn’t do
“Bold, what’s going on?”
I couldn’t answer because I was busy with the oxygen intake.
My coach continued:
“How many times have we talked about this now?”
He waved his Prince racket wildly.
“Your footwork is a 4-. You’re just a lazy sack. How are you going to play fast when your feet are moving slowly?”
What does that tell us?
Jiri Lehecka is definitely quick on his feet.
The young Czech plays incredible power tennis. There is more data on this power later in this article.
Back to the intro:
At that time I was training for a fairly large ranking tournament and in one coaching session I learned:
You can only play as fast as you can move.
Which leads us directly to one of the young guns without a net roller. If you ask me:
Jiri Lehecka is at least one upcoming top 10 player.
Even if this article later addresses many of its weaknesses.
Before we dive into the depths of power tennis and the lessons for you, let’s get to know the good Jiri first.
Who is Jiri Lehecka?
I really got to know Lehecka for the first time at an indoor tournament. I mean it was in Stockholm. I was impressed by how cool he stayed in the match. All the ups and downs of a match didn’t seem to bother him much.
He was always emotionally controlled.
Even after his victory against Grigor Dimitrov, which surprised many viewers, he was not overjoyed. He didn’t freak out with joy. This is an excellent quality that can improve any player mentally:
Don’t be too euphoric or too negative in the match.
Let’s look at the facts about the person Jiri Lehecka.
Origin: Czech Republic
Date of birth: 11/07/2001
Punching arm: Right, two-handed backhand
Pro since: 2020 (crazy, right?)
Sein Coach: Michal Navratil
Racket: Wilson Six One 95, 349 Gramm
You can find his Instagram account here . On Twitter he tweets here (or his marketing company 😉 ).
His parents were professional athletes themselves (mother: track and field athlete, father: swimmer). So Jiri comes from a competitive family.
Maybe that’s why he’s so mentally strong on the pitch. Origin and environment shape each player. That’s definitely a fact. Jiri Lehecka grew up with competitions from an early age.
A small advantage when it comes to performing at your best under pressure.
Where is Jiri Lehecka in the world rankings?
As of March 2023, Jiri Lehecka is ranked 44th in the ranking. His position was rank 37 so far. I’m sure it will go much further up.
Jiri Lehecka was number 10 in the youth world rankings. It couldn’t get any higher for him back then. Incidentally, he played on the junior tour until 2019 before he decided to switch to the professionals.
As you can see, he got through it pretty quickly.
We can state:
The leap from juniors to professionals was rapid. So I suggest we take a look at his psyche.
The psychological profile of Jiri Lehecka
Jiri Lehecka’s biggest success so far was definitely at the Australian Open 2023 .
He beat Cam Norrie (is there a player more boring than that?) and Felix Auger-Aliassime. After his triumph against Norrie, Jiri said during the on-court interview :
“I’ve learned never to give up. Deep down, I and my team have always believed in great success.”
Here’s a glimpse of what true confidence looks like on the tennis court. Sure, confidence is very easy to play like an actor. You can pretend to be confident on the pitch.
You stand tall, make eye contact with the opponent, pat your chest down the line after a forehand winner, yell out loud “Come on!” and look angry.
But the crucial question isn’t what you show to the outside, but how it looks deep inside you, in your tennis player soul.
A few lines earlier I wrote that Lehecka looks incredibly cool and tough for his age. So this is by no means played. We can infer that from his statement.
He doesn’t seem confident. Jiri Lehecka is self-confident.
This interior reflects his tennis. He is the opposite of a moon ball player . Jiri dares when it comes to big points . In the further course of this article we will come to his playing style, his strengths and weaknesses.
First, let’s analyze what else we can learn from Jiri about mentally strong tennis .
After his match against one of my personal favourites, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Lehecka said :
“The first set wasn’t that bad from my side. After that I just tried to focus on my return because he served pretty well and I tried to find a solution to return better. That’s it I did too. I felt like holding and concentrating on my serve was going to be the most important thing. I played a lot better in the first tie-break. It was 50-50 in the second tie-break. I played an incredible shot, a forehand down the line that he didn’t expect at all. Those were a few moments where I played great tennis and he helped me with a few mistakes too.”
You have two options in your matches:
you think problem oriented
you think solution- oriented
Anyone who knows my online courses knows this mental game.
Let’s take a match against an apocalyptic moon ball player as an example. You can get upset about his high balls . You can describe his style of play as anti-tennis, curse and then tell everyone afterwards that they “couldn’t do anything”.
All of this, dear tennis friend, is problem-oriented thinking.
You only think about your problems in the match. Imagine if you only thought about your problems in your job – never about solutions. Would you then be successful in what you do? Definitely not!
That’s exactly how it works on the tennis court .
You should think in terms of solutions, not problems. Jiri Lehecka said in this on-court interview:
“After that I just tried to focus on my return because he served pretty well and I tried to find a solution to return better. I managed that too. I felt like that Holding and concentrating on my serve will be the most important thing.”
This is solution-oriented thinking.
Lehecka didn’t think about Felix’s brute groundstrokes. He also didn’t think about the Canadian’s almost unbreakable serve. Jiri only thought of the things that could help him succeed.
What type of player is Jiri Lehecka?
Lehecka “modeled” his game after Tomas Berdych .
If you compare the two players with each other, then this becomes apparent quite quickly. A few videos on YouTube reveal that their setup is very similar:
flat over the net
quickly over the web
Attack, don’t wait
What does Tomas Berdych say about his heir to the Czech throne?
“He’s very young. But what I’ve seen is really the way he’s on the pitch, very good. What I like is his fitness and his strong body. Some of the young players are struggling with that.
They need more muscle or they lack strength. That’s definitely not the case with him, which I like.”
Berdych is right.
A Jannik Sinner is still too skinny. It simply lacks that important stability. In addition, the South Tyrolean marches across the pitch between rallies as if shot. It’s not exactly impressive for the opponent when the opponent drags one leg after the other behind him in the third (or fifth) set at 4:4 in order to drag himself to the next point.
This is not only a physical but also a mental disadvantage.
Jiri Lehecka is bursting with physical power. He is incredibly fit and muscular for a young tennis player. Neither a Zverev , an Auger-Aliassime nor a Sinner are even remotely as fit.
An Alcaraz has grown physically, despite his younger years.
Lehecka also needs this physical power to be able to play his kind of tennis. He’s a player you would say at any club:
Just don’t play on the forehand!
A Berdych in young, with a strong mentality.
What are the strengths of Jiri Lehecka’s game?
Fancy some numbers?
Cool, let’s see.
According to Tennis Data Innovations and TennisViz stats, Jiri Lehecka already has one of the strongest, most toxic forehands in the world.
Lehecka’s average forehand speed is 79.2 mph, with an average spin rate of 2,992 rpm.
That’s a scary combination of speed and spin.
As I said, Jiri is one who shouldn’t be played on the forehand.
This puts Lehecka in the same range as the well-known hard hitters Felix Auger-Aliassime (78.4 miles per hour and 3,178 revolutions per minute), Andrey Rublev (78.2 miles per hour and 2,917 revolutions per minute) and Jannik Sinner (77, 8 miles per hour and 2,901 revolutions per minute).
He’s even above that.
The ATP Tour average for forehand speed and spin is 75.1 mph and 2,713 rpm, respectively.
Lehecka plays such a forehand in T-field tennis 😉
Here is the forehand ranking again:
I always thought Rublev was the hardhitting monster.
Tennis Data Innovations and TennisViz also create a metric called “Shot Quality”.
This measures speed, spin, depth and distance.
To do this, the impact of the blow on the opponent is analyzed.
Lehecka’s 52-week average of that metric on the forehand side is 8, and he’s improved to 8.3 in the last 10 matches. Last year his shot quality was in the same range as Auger-Aliassime (8.1), Rublev (7.9) and Sinner (7.9).
The tour average is 7.2.
Where did this improvement come from?
Lehecka experimented with different racquet and string setups to better control his shots. His trainer, Navratil, said:
“He had a big problem with the string. He was able to break the string in 10, 15 minutes.”
Lehecka has had his racquets strung increasingly harder in order to be able to control his brutal shots more:
“It’s funny. Last year was very special. He strung 35/33 in Australia last year. In the beginning he was really a beast with so much power. But eventually he managed to control it and everything. Still I don’t think he can play at the full percentage of his power because I don’t think there are any racquets in this world that he can max out and control at the same time.”
Which brings us to the point:
Jiri Lehecka’s greatest strength in the game is his power, which no racquet on this planet can tame.
If you believe his trainer, Lehecka has too much power. Tomas Berdych’s assessment fits in with this. He said that Lehecka was a fitness beast .
I analyzed many of Jiri Lehecka’s matches. I have decoded some strengths, which at the same time also lead to his weaknesses.
We’ll stick to his strengths for now.
What I really like about him is how he moves up to the net . Lehecka consciously seeks the way forward. He uses his power tennis as a springboard to the net. He can hit the gas with forehand and backhand. Above all, his net attacks, which he initiates with his backhand , often come as a surprise to the opponent. To do this, he takes the ball with his two-handed backhand while standing in the field, massacres the felt ball, and then follows up on this blow.
He really likes to play this backhand cross:
lehecka backhand attack
The green arrow shows the path to the net that Lehecka takes after his backhand.
He can also unleash insane speed on slower hits from the opponent. That’s a quality that not many players have.
He can’t just keep up with his opponent’s pace. Lehecka can push the pace himself. And unbelievable speed.
Matching his power tennis, Lehecka is of course where in the rallies? Sure, very close to baseline. I analyzed that already after his serve he stays positioned either on or just behind the baseline. He does not shift his position backwards. He wants, probably also controlled from his subconscious, to set the pace directly and put the opponent under maximum pressure.
According to the motto:
“My friend, you shouldn’t have time to stretch out!”
We therefore often find Jiri Lehecka here in the rallies:
jiri leheck grundlin
This fundamental position of his leads us to his greatest weapon in the game. This weapon is a combination of his psyche, his mentality and his power.
When things are going well and Jiri has beaten a lot of good winners, then there’s hardly anything stopping him. I’ve seen this in a few matches. He is confident without being arrogant. Jiri pretty much knows what he can play. And if that works really well, then quite a lot comes together for him:
a lot of good network attacks
better odds on first serve
maximum confidence in his power tennis
My impression was that this self-confidence shows in different facets of his game. He’s always looking for a way forward.
He returns more aggressively.
In my opinion, he’s a bit too far back on the opponent’s first serve. It may be that I just watched the wrong matches. But it’s also possible that he chooses this position when he doesn’t feel quite as confident on the court. You would have to ask him.
In any case, he’s much closer to the line on the opponent’s second serve. Something Daniil Medvedev should learn from him. He’s always in the audience when the opponent serves.
If Lehecka feels this natural self-confidence, then we like to find him here on the return on the second serve:
jiri lehecka return
His game is designed for one thing:
Maximum power, maximum pressure on the opponent. In the best case, the opponent should play as few strokes as possible. Lehecka doesn’t want to be employed (like Daniil Medvedev for example), he wants to be employed. To do this, he uses his irrepressible power and his web attacks.
As already written:
I’m a big fan of his net game. He plays a better volley than a Tsitsipas. If I were Jiri Lehecka’s trainer, I would continue to expand and improve the coverage of the net, the movement routes on the net itself.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t said a word about his serve yet, I can reassure you. i am critical And so I grabbed his serve to the weaknesses.
Now you can find out:
What weakness(es) does Lehecka have?
I already wrote in the analysis of Brandon Nakashima that the young guns play a little brainless. They can hit the ball incredibly hard. You are all fit. But the playfulness is missing, the surprising in their game.
Carlos Alcaraz has his drop shots, his creativity , his net attacks.
But what does a Jannik Sinner own?
Or just a Jiri Lehecka?
Yes, of course, Lehecka already has this great net game. That’s a very good start. But I’m missing the spice, the whistle – that witty one. His serve is the best example of this. It’s a board, sure. I think his technique is very mature. But why the hell doesn’t he serve with a joke?
Most of his serves follow a pattern that almost made me nod off during my analyses:
The direction of his serves is monotonous.
Not only that he hardly serves many variations. He always serves the same thing very often. The top players with a strong return have figured out this yawningly boring pattern within three service games. A Djokovic will easily return Lehecka’s serves to his feet.
Not because Jiri Lehecka’s serve is bad.
I think he has a hard, technically clean serve. But he does far too little with the opportunities he clearly has. As if he were sitting on a chest full of gold. What he doesn’t know is that everything in that chest under his butt is full of gold.
He could excellently structure the points from the serve so that he can use his power tennis perfectly. A simple slice-serve-forehand combination would be a really good remedy:
jiri lehecka serve station wagon
Yes, it’s a simple move.
Serve to the outside, shorter return, attack with the forehand.
But you have to have the playful weapons for this play. And Jiri Lehecka has all these options. He has a strong serve and has the most powerful forehand in the world according to the numbers.
The price question that we therefore ask ourselves is:
Why doesn’t Lehecka play this combination much more often? Why does he serve too often stubbornly only badass to man? Unfortunately I do not know.
I noticed a few other weaknesses. Everything, things that might also apply to your game. Just on a slightly different level 😉
When things aren’t going well for Lehecka, the variation in his shots is enormous. He then makes a lot of mistakes when he is played in the middle. He then lacks the angles for his shots. If he is played in the middle and his self-confidence is not on point, then he throws many balls backwards.
On the defensive, he wants too much. In my analyses , I kept seeing a recurring pattern.
Here is a screenshot from the analysis:
lehecka analyse screenshot
If the opponent gets Lehecka moved, and if Lehecka has to react more than he can act, then he wants to go from the defensive to the winner.
From a purely tactical point of view, this almost never makes sense.
Here’s an example:
jiri lehecka defensive
He wants to hit Winner from a deep defense. Probably because he’s desperate? I don’t know it. This tactical behavior means that he rarely finds his way out of an opponent’s mill.
If Jiri Lehecka is put on the defensive, he stands naked on the pitch 😉 He can no longer use his strengths, his power. In some phases I have already seen this phenomenon when it was moved by the opponent.
What do I mean exactly?
If Lehecka had to play three or four balls in a row from the run, then his error rate automatically went up. Which brings us to the next point, the next weakness in his game.
There is the Berrettini complex.
This occurs when a player with incredibly hard shots and power tennis hits the miss instead of the winner in crucial game situations. I mean, you could just play it in and turn your head on.
Berrettini is absolutely world class in this.
That’s why I think he’ll never win a Grand Slam tournament.
I see similarities with Lehecka.
His error rate is just too high. He needs to dose his power better. He has to spice up his power tennis with wit, charm and brains.