Ranked outside the top 150 at the beginning of 2021, Denmark’s Clara Tauson is now a top-50 player after unleashing her big-hitting game on the tour in a breakout year.
The 18-year-old won two WTA titles this season to become one of six teenagers inside the women’s top 100 heading into Australian Open 2022.
Tauson enjoyed an excellent junior career, winning the AO 2019 girls’ singles title over Leylah Fernandez and ascending to world No.1.
And her junior success quickly translated to the professional game.
She qualified for the main draw in Lugano a few months later in what was her first ever WTA event, and in her first Grand Slam tournament, as a 188th-ranked qualifier at Roland Garros 2020, she beat that year’s US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady to reach the second round.
She took even bigger steps in 2021, winning five titles; two at ITF level, one at the WTA 125K tournament in Chicago — where she beat US Open champ Emma Raducanu for the trophy — and, most notably, her first two WTA titles.
Those came indoors in Lyon and Luxembourg, where her powerful first serve, huge groundstrokes and penchant for coming forward served her well in conditions similar to which her idol, Petra Kvitova, thrives.
Clara Tauson’s Road to her 1st @WTA Title in Lyon:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 7, 2021
1QR: d. Fayard 62 60
2QR: d. Hesse 64 62
1R: d.  Alexandrova 63 64
2R d. Babos 62 63
QF: d. Giorgi 63 61
SF: d.  Badosa 75 61
F: d. Golubic 64 61
Will make her Top 100 debut on Monday. pic.twitter.com/tlhUBwSb5D
She first cracked the top 100 with her Lyon triumph in March, and since mid-August has won 18 of her past 22 matches to peak at No.41, a run that included her third WTA final in Courmayeur.
The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam main draw she is yet to play.
In beating 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in September’s Luxembourg final, Tauson finished with the exceptional ratio of 31 winners to just six unforced errors.
It feels as if Tauson was born to play professionally — at every stage of her tennis journey she has seemed drawn to the sport and been guided by the best.
Her uncle, Michael Tauson, rose to a career-high ranking of world No.101 in 1990 while another Danish star, former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, gave Tauson the belief she could also make it out of Denmark to become a top-level pro.
“We say hi whenever we see each other. I've practiced with her, too,” Tauson revealed.
Tauson is now based in Belgium at the Justine Henin Academy; Henin, a seven-time major champion, watched on as the teenager upstaged Brady at Roland Garros.
And Tauson is a tennis nut — it’s the only sport she has ever played, she follows results closely, watches tennis highlights on YouTube and openly discusses players she admires and hopes to face.
It’s not just tennis that she enjoys watching; Tauson is also a fan of crime shows, explaining that they help take her mind off things while still being exciting.
She hails from a sporting family, with her father a former professional hockey player and her mother having played handball at a high level in Denmark.
Before moving to Belgium in late 2019, she lived and trained in Copenhagen.
"You will never find me in a difficult position if you ask me something about tennis (laughter). I know everything. My coach says I'm the Wikipedia of tennis results (laughter). I love watching tennis and I love playing."
-- The Lucky Letcord Podcast, 5 March 2021
In an interview with the WTA, Tauson offered an insight into her big-match instincts: “I love playing the good players. That's where I want to be.”
She also added: "I love that I can decide where I want to play the ball and it's only me who decides if I win or lose. I'm definitely not a team player!”