LONDON: Marie Bouzkova could reach the Wimbledon semi-finals on Tuesday, fired up by a dedicated series of pre-match superstitions and a decade-long devotion to an eye-catching, giant water bottle.
The 23-year-old US-based Czech will be the underdog when she faces world number two Ons Jabeur.
Win or lose, she will certainly catch the eye.
At every changeover, Bouzkova reaches for an outsized, jet-black water bottle which requires both hands to lift.
The ‘Bouzie Bottle’ boasts a giant sticker with the words ‘From Prague to Florida…to a court near you’.
“We bought it from a girl in Florida. I used the original one for three years and now I always just look at Amazon and buy a new one,” said Bouzkova who has been using a giant bottle for a decade.
“In fact, I can’t even imagine playing without one now.”
Until this Wimbledon, Bouzkova had never progressed beyond the second round of a major.
But after knocking out seventh seed Danielle Collins in the first round, the 66th-ranked Czech has coasted through the draw.
“I don’t know how I got here,” admitted Bouzkova after seeing off Caroline Garcia in the third round.
To celebrate, she and her team celebrated with traditional strawberries and cream.
“It’s one of our 100 routines at Wimbledon,” she said.
Bouzkova is superstitious enough to rarely stray from pre-match habits.
In a recent interview with the DNES daily, she said she and her father Milan always play the board game of Sequence before going on court.
That is accompanied by tea with cups placed on the left.
She will always use the first shower on her left and then always consume two bananas.
Bouzkova has never faced Jabeur in singles but she did tackle her in doubles in Eastbourne last month when the Tunisian teamed-up with the returning Serena Williams.
“Ons is one of the most talented on the tour. She can basically do anything, mix up the game so well. Many dropshots. Her game is really fun,” said Bouzkova.
Jabeur made the last-eight in 2021 and is now looking to reach a first Grand Slam semi-final.
The 27-year-old coasted through the first three rounds before digging deep to save five set points in the opening set of her last-16 clash against Elise Mertens.
Now she hopes her progress at the All England Club will inspire other Arab and African players.
“I want them to believe more in themselves and believe they can be here,” said Jabeur.
“I don’t come from a rich family so you have to stop finding excuses and just go for it, enjoy it.”