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'Everything was possible': Badosa walking tall after stellar 12 months

  • Alex Sharp

Embracing centre stage, "anything is possible" in the book of Paula Badosa.

The Spaniard curtailed her junior career as the 2015 Roland-Garros girls' champion, the hype and expectations then becoming all-encompassing. It took Badosa a few seasons to find her feet, to fulfil her potential.

Take Australian Open 2021. Badosa surrendered a commanding 5-3 deciding set lead to fall to Russian qualifier Liudmilla Samsonova in the opening round. She ended up "locked in a room," completely devasted.  

Now, it's a very different story. The 24-year-old has rocketed up the rankings courtesy of a banner 2021 season. No longer a player on the periphery, Badosa is one of the leading lights in the WTA cast and the Spaniard is soaking it all in.

"It's amazing and I have goosebumps, because I played here two years ago against Petra (Kvitova) and I played on this court because of her because she was the seeded player," recalled the world No.6, having booked her Australian Open 2022 third round ticket.

MORE: Women's singles results AO 2022

"So being back here on Rod Laver Arena, winning and being here because of me, because I'm the seeded one, it's super special. It's very emotional to be there.

"After I think I had an amazing year, I'm starting the year very well. It's really nice to play there." 

An amazing year is a pretty on the money. Starting out at world No.70, she earned a Roland-Garros quarterfinal, dismissed a host of elite players to lift the Indian Wells title, cracked the top 10, which then culminated in a semifinal showing at the WTA Finals.

MORE: Women's singles draw AO 2022

But what was the catalyst?

You might not recall the 2021 Charleston Open back in April. Badosa arrived with a 0-5 career record against top 20 talent. She sparked into contention with a triumph over No.12 Belinda Bencic – but the last eight was the pivotal duel. 

The 24-year-old was pitched against world No.1 Ash Barty. The Australian struck 34 winners, however Badosa's defence and counterpunching brilliance erased 12 of 14 break points. With 6-4 6-3 on the scoreboard, Badosa was now brimming with belief.

Badosa after defeating Azarenka at Indian Wells in 2021

"I think I worked very hard last year, but I think there was a key moment and I'm sorry, the name I'm gonna say right now, but it was after winning against Ash Barty," joked Badosa with the Rod Laver Arena crowd.

"She's the best player in the world. The number says that she's an amazing player, for me beating her was amazing. And after that moment, I felt that everything was possible and I could win against any player." 

The eighth seed transferred her 2021 form Down Under, clinching a third career title in Sydney a week ago. Her evolution looks set to continue into 2022.

"I think I'm growing as a person, as a tennis player day by day. I'm working very hard. I'm believing in myself. I'm improving a lot," stated the Spaniard, winning 17 of her past 21 matches.

"I'm really proud of how I am working. I'm really doing an amazing job with my team. Everything it's rolling. It's never easy playing as a favourite as well, so it's a new experience for me. I'm slowly getting into it and I'm happy that I'm in the third round." 

Badosa has dropped just seven games in her opening two encounters at Melbourne Park this summer, breezing into the last 32 without facing a break point 6-0 6-3 versus Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan.

"I'm very happy. It was a tricky match. Martina she's a fighter. She has a very nice story and I really respect players like her. So, I knew she will fight until the end. I had to stay there every point."

Badosa in full flight

Fans will be putting their feet up with a bag of popcorn next as the world No.6 is drawn to take on Ukrainian charge Marta Kostyuk. The 19-year-old has enjoyed some of her finest wins at Melbourne Park, including Wednesday's 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo.

"We've been friends since long time ago. I've been following Marta a lot. I really respect her," stated the Spaniard. "She's a very talented player. When they ask me who can be the next star, I always say Marta.

"She has a lot of potential. She's always a dangerous player. I will have to play my best because I know she likes these kind of matches and she will play her best next day."