Desirae Krawczyk returns to the Coachella Valley a champion.
As members of a minority that represents only 10 percent of the human population, left-handers seldom get a break. The dumb jokes. The backward spiral notebooks. The upside-down measuring tapes.
But in tennis, it’s often advantage: lefty. Among memorable doubles teams with lefty representation are the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike), the “Woodies” (Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge), and Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Of the top 10 doubles teams currently ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), 40 percent have a left-handed player. One of them, Desirae Krawczyk, is a Coachella Valley native who graduated from Palm Desert High School and as of press time is ranked No. 13 with her Dutch partner, Demi Schuurs.
Krawczyk says the left-right doubles combo expands a team’s strategic options. “Let’s say it’s sunny, so one person doesn’t have to serve in the sun, you can just switch it. You could have forehands on the outside or forehands in the middle,” she says. “A lot of people can’t see the lefty serve, there’s a little different spin to it. We have that little bit of edge. Most lefties are pretty crafty.”
Krawczyk, 29, has claimed top honors in mixed doubles at four Grand Slam tournaments, winning the 2021 French and U.S. Opens with Joe Salisbury, and Wimbledon in 2021 and 2022 with Neal Skupski. Most tournaments don’t stage mixed doubles, so the best-known doubles teams are single gender.
As a doubles specialist, Krawczyk has won seven titles on the WTA Tour and reached the finals in six other tournaments, including Grand Slam and WTA 1000 events. She and Schuurs first doubled up at the BNP Paribas Open last year, losing in the second round. “We had a couple of rough tournaments, still getting to know each other’s game styles and how to play with one another,” Krawczyk recounts. They won one tournament last year and were finalists at the 1000 event in Madrid. “Our goal,” she says, “was to make the WTA finals.” And they did. Seeded eighth out of eight teams, they made the semifinals at the season-ending event in November.
Krawczyk credits her preference for and skill at doubles to her college experience, which requires all team members to compete in doubles as well as singles. “I wasn’t comfortable at the net until I learned how to play in college,” she says. Her coaches emphasized doubles’ signature element: aggression. The player can’t wait to get to the ball, rushing forward to take ownership of the net, looking to poach — moving laterally at the net to intercept the opponent’s shot and disrupt her strategy and rhythm.
I just didn’t love the singles aspect of it as much. I loved being on a team.
Bob and Mike Bryan occasionally played singles. Wayne Bryan, their coach and father, says players who participate in doubles often reap rewards on the singles court because they have more weapons. “A singles player can be unbelievably fast and cover the court with great defensive skills. They can have a humongous serve to get them through the night. They can have unbelievable ground strokes.” But in doubles, he says, “You’ve gotta be able to serve, you’ve gotta be able to return, and you’ve gotta be able to volley. I think Andy Roddick would have won two Wimbledons if he had played more doubles as a kid. He would have had a better volley against [Roger] Federer’s wide-running forehand.” Roddick lost four Wimbledon finals to Federer.
After graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development, Krawczyk joined the professional tour. She soon knew her office would be a doubles court. “I just didn’t love the singles aspect of it as much,” she says. “I loved being on a team.”
“She gets the sport of doubles 100 percent,” Shriver says. “A lot of players who become doubles specialists really picked up their craft a lot not just in juniors, but through their college years.”
Krawczyk relishes the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where she served as a ball kid for many years. “For someone who loves tennis so much and aspired to be a professional tennis player,” she says, “it was a dream.”
The tournament “brings so many memories,” she adds. “I trained [in the Coachella Valley]. Seeing all the people who have helped me get to where I am come out and support [me] — there’s nothing like it.”
At last year’s Australian Open, Krawczyk was practicing when Rafael Nadal came onto the court. “I said, ‘Rafa, I don’t know if you remember this, but I used to ball-kid for you at Indian Wells.’ ” She showed him a photo of the two of them at the venue. “He’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that was Indian Wells, 2014,’ and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, how do you remember that?’ ”
She asked if they could re-create that early photo. Rafa, being Rafa, struck the pose.
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