What if Paula Badosa was the revelation of the women’s tournament this year at Roland-Garros? At 23, the Spaniard, 35e in the WTA rankings, impresses with his powerful game and steel mind. After having dismissed Sunday in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 6-2) the Czech Marketa Vondrousova – finalist of the tournament in 2019 -, she will play, Tuesday June 8, her first quarter-final in a Grand Slam tournament against Slovenian Tamara Zidansek, also 23.
The performance is all the more remarkable as this is only the Catalan’s second participation in the main draw of the French Open, where she stopped in the round of 16 in the last edition in the fall. In the third round, Badosa had all the trouble in the world to get rid of the Romanian Ana Bogdan (102e World), erasing a match point before winning in three sets (2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4). Badosa now appears as a possible candidate for the final victory, in a women’s tournament where many favorites have taken the door.
New coach, new mind
It is true that her name is not unknown at Porte d’Auteuil, where she won the junior tournament in 2015, at 17, without losing a set. After Lourdes Dominguez in 1999, she is the only Spaniard to have won the title in juniors. Born in New York, where her parents were models, Paula started playing tennis at age 7 when her family moved to Barcelona. Her height (1.80 m), her blonde locks and her blue eyes, her powerful style, everything pushes the Spanish media to compare her to Maria Sharapova, her idol.
After such a smashing start, the expectations were high. Too much, no doubt, since the player then went through a long slump. Between 2018 and 2019, she nevertheless managed to settle in the world top 100 by working with Xavier Budo – close to Joan Laporta, the latter was just appointed in April sports director of FC Barcelona.
Since September 2020, she has teamed up with another Spaniard, Javier Marti, a player still ranked at ATP (836e). Seriously injured in the elbow, the Madrilenian has put his career on hold for a year to take care of the young woman. Himself compared to Nadal when he was 17, Marti had the hard experience of the pressure of the pro circuit, the expectations of the public and the media.
After her victory against Vondrousova, Badosa paid tribute to her: “Javier teaches me to keep it simple. Sometimes when there are a lot of expectations around you, you tend to think too far ahead. With Javier, we live from day to day, without thinking too much about the next match, the next tournament… Tennis is 80% mental. The key is to manage your nerves in the important moments of a match ”, she explained in a press conference.
“She can play well everywhere”
While his powerful playing reminds us more of the American school than the Spanish one, Marti sums up Badosa’s profile as follows: “She is a very aggressive player, she has very good groundstrokes, she has excellent serve, a first serve with a speed well above average. It can adapt to any surface, it can play well anywhere. ”
During matches, Badosa often seeks the gaze of his coach in the stands. “The person who knows you the best is your coach. When there are matches under pressure, I look for his gaze and that reassures me. We worked on the mind and just looking at it calms me ”, she developed.
Powerful, enduring, now mentally strong, the Catalan has arguments to make, especially as she approaches the second week without pressure, her tournament is already a success. This is also the case for his next opponent, Tamara Zidansek, who has the particularity of having started in sport… by snowboarding. Zidansek is the first Slovenian to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. Whatever the outcome, this meeting will therefore be a refreshing first.