New year, Badosa remains the same

If 2021 was the year of her climb to the elite of women’s tennis, 2022 seems to be the year of her definitive confirmation as a star in this business. Paula Badosa lifted her first title of the year yesterday at the Sydney Classic, the second tournament she has played so far this year after losing in the first round in Adelaide against the Czech Azarenka. The 24-year-old Spaniard knocked down in an arduous final, resolved after two hours and 24 minutes (6-3, 4-6 and 7-6 (4)), the mental wall of the Czech Krejcikova, 26 years old, whom she has taken the pulse: he has won the three times they have faced each other.

The bomb-proof head that, among other things, has made Nadal great, was perhaps the most outstanding aspect of Paula’s growth last year and this Saturday she once again showed that she is prepared for the ups and downs, the valleys and the peak moments that this level requires knowing how to manage. Krejcikova put forward her status as the defending champion of Roland Garros and her best position in the ranking (fourth against ninth) since the beginning of the match. Badosa entered softly, leaving many balls in the middle of the court that the Czech, with a tremendous ability to open angles and find lines, did not forgive. His first turn to serve ended in a break and 2-0 out against.

It was time to reset and the game was about not letting his rival think too much, shortening the points. The Spanish understood it and began to attack more fiercely: counter break and 2-2. Supported by a very high percentage of points with the first serve (83%), she gained ground and ended up getting two more breaks, in the seventh game to get ahead and in the ninth to seal the first set.

Impassive Krejcikova, a tennis player who is capable of joking with her coach in the middle of the third set of a final, regained momentum with the start of the second set. Again 2-0 to start and from there a trench tennis, with constant alternatives and all the games played, not one blank. Badosa managed to tie in the sixth, but the ninth ended in a break for his rival, who did not fail with his service to force the third set.

But what had been an overwhelming triumph of the Spanish in the semifinals (2-0 to Kasatkina, before knocking down Bencic, Tomljanovic and another Roland Garros champion like Ostapenko) for Krejcikova was a two and a half hour delivery against Kontaveit. The greater wear of the Czech had to be noticed and it was noticed, but only in the last instance, the tie-break they went to after exchanging breaks at the beginning of the final round. There Badosa took flight with a 5-2 and did not let escape (7-4 at the end) the first trophy of the season, which invites us to think of a great 2022 for the new luminary of Spanish women’s tennis. For now, on Monday he will climb to sixth place in the ranking.

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