Badosa turning up the power to achieve greatest success at Australian Open
Paula Badosa is breaking new ground on hard courts thanks to a newfound willingness to add risk to her game.
Paula Badosa, hard court guru? It may not be the case – yet – but the Spaniard, a gifted clay-courter like so many other professional players that hail from Spain, is slowly but surely learning to adapt her game to the hard courts, and it is paying big dividends in 2022.
On Friday in Melbourne she battled past Marta Kostyuk, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, notching her eighth consecutive win to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the first time. That’s a big step for Badosa, given her past results at Grand Slams played on hard courts.
Badosa entered this year’s Australian Open with a 2-6 record at the hard court majors (US Open and Australian Open, 1-3 at each) but this year, after her Day 5 truimph the sixth-ranked Spaniard is 3-0.
The 24-year-old has caught fire in Australia, and she believes that one of the big reasons driving her recent success is her willingness to add more risk to her game.
“For me, it was a big challenge and a big goal for me to change a little bit of my game this year, being a little bit more aggressive, going more for the shots, serving big,” she told WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen after winning the Sydney title last week. ‘I’m really happy that I’ve been improving on that.”
Seeds who won on Friday (3rd round): Krejcikova (4), Sakkari (5), Badosa (8), Pegula (21) Azarenka (24)
Seeds already out: Muguruza (3), Kontaveit (6), Kenin (11), Rybakina (12), Kerber (16), Raducanu (17), Gauff (18), Kvitova (20), Bencic (22), Fernandez (23), Sorribes Tormo (32)
Seeds who lost on Friday (3rd round): Svitolina (15), Ostapenko (26), Kudermetova (28)
A change in mindset is translating to more success for Badosa on hard courts
Badosa has never had much problem making her game work on clay. She was 17-3 last season on the red stuff, compared to 23-12 on hard courts, but the Spaniard deserves credit for recognizing that she could get more out of her tennis if she let the court do some of the work for her.
It’s easy to recognize the heavy power of Badosa’s strokes, she can sting the ball with wicked force off of both wings, but she has recently discovered that the key to unlocking her game on faster surfaces is being more willing to pull the trigger. On clay she can afford to be more passive, but on hard courts it’s not always the right path to take.
“I’ve never been that aggressive, but I think I had the capacity of being that,” she told Nguyen last week after winning the Sydney title (d. Krejcikova in the final). “But I always preferred to play another way. So I think I had that capacity to do it. Of course, it’s a big step mentally as well, to go for it and to not fear about it – I think I had the shots, but sometimes I wasn’t going for it.”
Badosa also gives credit to Jorge Garcia, the former coach that she reconnected with after last year’s US Open. She would soon claim the title at Indian Wells under his tutelage, her first on a hard court. After raising the trophy in Sydney last week, it seems that the Indian Wells triumph will prove to be the first of many hard court titles.
“I think that my coach helps me a lot on that, because sometimes when you miss you just regret it so much,” she said. “He’s always supporting me and being there, [telling me] ‘I don’t care if you do 500 unforced errors because it’s the only way.’ When you have your team that supports you and that you feel more confident and you see that it’s OK if you miss. That’s a little bit my change.”
Trying, sometimes it’s tough for me, but going more to the net or going more for it in the returnsPaula Badosa
Badosa admits that it hasn’t been an easy challenge. And she adds that the courts in Australia are much different from the slower, higher-bouncing surface at Indian Wells. In other words, the work is progressing, but by no means complete.
“I think I did a very good step forward on that, starting with my coach, Jorge, he helped me a lot on this big change. Trying, sometimes it’s tough for me, but going more to the net or going more for it in the returns,” she said last week in Sydney. “I’m really happy about that.
“This change, it was tough mentally at the beginning. And even I think I was starting to do that in Ostrava, and then in Indian Wells it went very well but it was different courts. I think here in Australia the courts are faster, so that change was a little bit tough for me.”
More than just power and aggression – Badosa’s mental game improves as well
During Friday’s tussle with the up and coming Kostyuk, Badosa couldn’t always afford to be aggressive. She was frequently on the run against the hard-hitting 19-year-old, but Badosa no longer settles into a pattern of passivity. She’s constantly searching for the proper ball to attack and she relied on that instinct to guide her through a very difficult contest.
Badosa is also improving in other ways. She has worked hard on her mental game, cultivating a more positive approach that allows her to trust herself more in tight matches. And if things don’t go her way, she has learned not to beat herself up.
A perfect example of that would be the horribly shanked forehand she hit on her third match point against Kostyuk in the final game of today’s victory. Badosa didn’t let it get to her and soon finished off the match on her terms.
All signs point north, to more success and a possible deep run
In many ways, it feels like this is just the beginning for Badosa. At 24, she has plenty of time to add nuance to her game, and the versatility to continue to work on developing tools for each specific surface. Some players might rest on their laurels after rising from outside the top-60 to inside the top-10 in one season, but not Badosa. She wants to take it to the next level, and this desire should serve her well.
“I’m looking forward to do a little bit more than last year,” she said last week during her Sydney title run. “What can I ask? I always want to do more.”
Badosa will face either Madison Keys or Wang Qiang in the round of 16.