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Paula Badosa in 2021: From quarantine in Melbourne to glory at Indian Wells

From being quarantined before the Australian Open to reaching the semis at the WTA Finals, 2021 has been a memorable year for Paula Badosa

Paula Badosa, Tennis Majors 2021 © Panoramic

Paula Badosa had been touted as a player to watch out for ever since she won the Roland-Garros juniors in 2015. But with comparisons to tennis supernova Maria Sharapova, the Spaniard struggled to live up to the expectations in her first few years on the pro tour.

In 2020, Badosa finished the season inside the top 100 for the second year in a row. And while there was no denying her potential, not many expected her to have the kind of season she did especially after her unlucky start to the season in Australia. The 24-year-old rebounded to win 2 titles, including the prestigious Indian Wells title, reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final and qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals for the first time to emerge as one of the contenders for the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award. Let’s review the highs and the lows of Badosa’s 2021 season.

  • Badosa’s ranking at the end of 2020: 70
  • Badosa’s ranking at the end of 2021: 8
  • Badosa’s 2021 win-loss record: 43-17
  • Badosa’s Titles: 2

Worst moment of the year for Paula Badosa: ‘Abandoned’ in Australia, Wheeled off the court in Tokyo

Badosa was among the unlucky group of players who were in the flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne which had a positive COVID-19 case. After being forced into insolation in the players’ hotel, things went from bad to worse as the Spaniard tested positive herself and was put into a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients. Badosa was vocal about her experience during quarantine, saying she felt abandoned by Tennis Australia and barely had enough time to prepare for her first-round match at the Australian Open, which ended up in a three-set defeat.

Far and away the worst experience of my career

Paula Badosa

“I feel abandoned because I don’t have training equipment which I requested five days ago, I haven’t been told which type of the virus I have, I’ve had no information from the tournament,” Badosa told Spanish daily Marca. “It’s far and away the worst experience of my career. The conditions here are lamentable, I wasn’t expecting that. The number one thing people recommend when you have the virus is to open the windows to let in air, but I don’t have windows in my hotel room and it’s barely 15 metres square.”

Another low moment for Badosa came at the Tokyo Olympics where the Spaniard looked to be on a good run, to reach the quarter-finals where she met Marketa Vondrousova, whom she has beaten only a few weeks ago in Paris. Badosa suffered a heatstroke in the difficult Tokyo conditions and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair after losing the first set to the Czech player, ending her dreams of an Olympic medal.

Paula Badosa being taken off the court in a wheelchair at the Tokyo Olympics; Image Credit: Panoramic/ Tennis Majors

“It was a shame to end my participation this way. The conditions have been demanding from day one, we tried to adapt as best as possible, but today the body has not resisted as needed,” Badosa commented after the match. “I leave with a feeling of pride for having given absolutely everything for my country, for having represented it in the most professional way that I could.

Badosa’s best Grand Slam result: Roland-Garros quarter-finals

Badosa’s season quickly turned around over the next few months. After semi-final appearances in Lyon, Charleston, where she beat top-ranked Ash Barty, and Madrid, where she beat Belinda Bencic for the second time in a row, Badosa picked up her first singles title in Serbia and then reached the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros, her best-ever finish at a Major (and an improvement over her fourth-round appearance in 2020) which included a win over former finalist Marketa Vondrousova. Badosa went down to Tamara Zidansek in a high-quality battle 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 that lasted two hours and 29 minutes.

Best moment of her season: Winning Indian Wells

Undoubtedly, the biggest moment of Badosa’s season and career so far came in October, where she picked up her second career singles title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Ranked 27th in the world at the time, Badosa scored wins over 19th ranked Coco Gauff, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, three-time Major winner Angelique Kerber and 14th ranked Ons Jabeur to reach the final where she met two-time Grand Slam champ Victoria Azarenka.

In one of the best matches of the season, Badosa and Azarenka went toe-to-toe for three hours and four minutes before the Spaniard finally triumphed 7-6, 2-6, 7-6. The fortnight was Badosa’s coming out party on the WTA Tour main stage and the she seems like she’s here to stay now.

Paula Badosa off-the-court

Away from the tennis courts, Badosa took some time off to spend with her boyfriend and close friends, indulging in things that any other 24-year-old might want to, besides lending her time to some good causes as well.

Badosa by Badosa : “Very proud to have reached this point”

It’s hard to be anything but proud after the kind of season Badosa had. Her Indian Wells title helped her clinch a spot in the season-ending WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico. Wins over sixth ranked Maria Sakkari and second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka earned her a spot in the semis where she went down to countrywoman Garbine Muguruza.

I had always dreamed about this moment of being among the best in the world

Paula Badosa

Tennis Majors’ view

Badosa’s strong baseline game and work ethic, along with her resilience after going through a difficult phase early in herc career, should set herself up for a good season in 2022 and beyond. The Spaniard knows she can compete with and win against the best on the biggest stages and with age on her side, she has the potential to be a Grand Slam contender in 2022 and the years thereafter.

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