Indian Wells, Calif. – In its usual March dates, the BNP Paribas Open has been a launching pad for big talent in recent years.
Naomi Osaka won the title in 2018 and then won the US Open by defeating Serena Williams in the final. Bianca Andreescu won the title in 2019 and did the same.
Time will tell 27th-ranked Paula Badosa, who won her first top-tier title on Sunday with a 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2) victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final, winning three. It required hours and four minutes of effort and flexibility in temperatures close to 90 degrees.
At 23, Badosa is older than either Osaka or Andreescu when he built his breakthroughs at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. But she was once a teenager herself and is now doing justice to her talent. On Monday, she will reach number 13 in the top 20 for the first time.
Badosa was born in New York where her Spanish parents were living and working, but the family soon moved back to Spain where she began playing tennis.
She was recognized as someone with the drive and talent to become Spain’s next great female player after Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, Conchita Martínez and Garbine Muguruza.
She played her first professional satellite tournament at age 14, won two rounds as a wild-card entry at the 2015 Miami Open at age 17, and won the French Open junior title later that year. But she struggled with expectations and touring, going through a complete depression that left her struggling to get out of bed, much less train for the competition.
Badosa sought professional help, and found a new coach who helped her rebuild her game and rebuild her confidence, and in January 2019, she qualified for her first Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open.
She chose to open up about her mental-health issues while recording a video in 2019 that described her journey. But his rise to the elite began in 2020 after a five-month hiatus of professional tours forced by the coronavirus pandemic. Badosa reached the fourth round of the French Open, which was delayed from spring to October after further strengthening. She was set to do well at this year’s Australian Open to prepare for the off-season, only to end up, like Azarenka, in tough quarantine after a charter flight to Melbourne.
Both players lost in the first round, but Badosa had a successful season: winning his first WTA Tour title in Belgrade in May and then in the fourth round with a run in the quarterfinals at the French Open. Quarterfinals of Wimbledon and Tokyo Olympics.
At 5 foot-11, he has physical presence and great power on his serve, forehand and two-handed backhand. But he is also a natural mover, capable of counterattacking from corners and chasing down drop shots, which is what the clever Ons Jabur tried to do against him in the semi-finals on Friday.
Azarenka presented a very different challenge. While Jabur relies on spin and sudden changes of pace, Azarenka at her most dangerous is a straight-line player, when she can step onto the return or on the court and find a sharp angle with her best shot: His two- handed backhand. She is also highly effective on the net, where she often flourishes on Sundays.
A former No. 1, Azarenka hasn’t had his best season in 2021. But he is most dangerous on the hardcourt, and Indian Wells has long been one of his happiest hunting grounds.
There are no major tournaments in Azarenka’s home country of Belarus. But this dry part of the United States is an area that feels like home. After leaving her home city of Minsk to find better training opportunities, she lived in Arizona as a teenager and later bought a house in Manhattan Beach, California, in the Los Angeles area.
She won the singles title at Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016, the year she looked set to dominate the women’s game. Instead, she became pregnant with their son Leo and skipped the tour for about a year. After her return, she was unable to compete relentlessly and was unable to leave California at one stage due to a long-running custody battle with her ex-boyfriend, Billy McKegg.
But she’s still hit some high notes: above her run in the finals of the US Open last year. And she is still one of the purest ball strikers and best returners in the women’s game.
“I was looking at you several times,” Badosa told 32-year-old Azarenka at Sunday’s post-match ceremony. “I remember telling my coach that I hope one day I can play like him.”
“Thank you for inspiring me so much,” Badosa said. “I wouldn’t be here without you.”
Azarenka was on her way to becoming a three-time women’s singles champion for the first time at Indian Wells on Sunday. After losing the first set in 90-degree temperatures, she came back to win the second set as Badosa struggled to get the same consistency from the baseline.
Azarenka radiated positive energy throughout the match, pumping his fists and moving purposefully between points. Although Badosa took a 2-0 lead in the final set, Azarenka did not give up. She fought back 2-2 and then broke the Spaniard’s serve 4-4 for a chance to serve for the match.
At 30–0, Azarenka was just two points from the win, but after nearly three hours of the title chase, she lost her way, making unforced errors on the next four points, losing her serve and leaving Badosa at 5–5. Letting go back to hunting. .
He didn’t miss the opportunity to lead the ensuing tiebreaker, taking a sharp 3-0 lead, defeating a forehand winner to extend the lead to 4-1, and then finishing the match on his first championship point with another forehand winner. Gave.
It was quite the finishing touch on the biggest win of Badosa’s career, and she immediately dropped her racket, fell on the court and started crying with her hands covering her face.
After the win, he thanked his support team and tournament director Tommy Haas, saying it was “a dream come true.”
“I know it’s been a very difficult time, so I appreciate all you’ve done,” Badosa told Haas.
It has indeed been an unusual and challenging edition of this prestigious tournament, which was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and was delayed till October this year. But although female stars like Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams were missing and the crowd was much smaller than usual, the 2021 BNP Paribas Open was the last worthy of the event’s hard-earned reputation.
If everything goes according to plan, there are no guarantees in the coronavirus era, Badosa will defend their biggest title in just five months’ time. The 2022 edition is scheduled to be played in its normal window from March 7 to 20.