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From master brewer's little girl to giant-killer

sports Updated: Sep 03, 2012 03:07 IST

The Czech Republic, with a little more than 10 million people, has produced a disproportionate number of tennis champions. Aside from tennis trophies, another thing the Czechs hoist in disproportionate amounts is beer. Unlike in tennis, the Czechs have little competition in this category, with the average citizen consuming 131 liters a year, more than Germany, Austria and Ireland by 25 liters.

In Andrea Hlavackova, the country finally may have found a way to combine its strengths. Hlavackova hails from Plzen, the Czech town that gave pilsner its name. Her father, Jan, is the master brewer for Pilsner Urquell, a beer made in Plzen since 1842. The family has run the company for nearly a century.

With her countrywoman and doubles partner, Lucie Hradecka, Hlavackova won the 2011 French Open and made the finals of Wimbledon this year. They also took the silver medal in women's doubles at the London Olympics, one of the country's 10 medals. In the semifinals, she and Hradecka beat the top-seeded team, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond of the United States, then lost to Venus and Serena Williams in the final.

"I think the medal changed it," Hlavackova said recently of the perception of her family. "I think so far, it's always been 'daughter of the master brewer,' and now the medal has changed it a little bit. My father is also getting older, so he's slowly retiring from his position. He will always be the master brewer, but, you know, it's changing."

She added: "The medal is just huge. It's a huge thing for sport, and I'm getting more publicity and I hope it will grow. And I'm thinking this is the perfect timing for me to make it in singles and prove to people that I'm not a doubles-player specialist. I'm a player who is playing singles and doubles well."

Hlavackova entered the United States Open ranked No. 82 in singles, though she will rise significantly after reaching the fourth round with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 upset of 14th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia.

It is the first time Hlavackova has advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam singles tournament. Of the more than 300 men and women who began the 2012 United States Open, Hlavackova is the only player still alive in singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the tournament.

In her fourth-round singles match, scheduled for Monday, she will face Serena Williams.

Hlavackova said her success in doubles had helped her confidence as a singles player.