Spain’s Paula Badosa has been playing her best tennis since winning the 2021 Indian Wells title, but can she repeat her success to defend the title in 2022?
Perhaps the most difficult title to defend, the Indian Wells has not been won by a WTA player for two consecutive years since Martina Navratilova pulled it off in 1990-91. Fast forward 30 years later, and world No.7 Paula Badosa now has her shot at this surprisingly rare stat to add to her records. It won’t be easy, but the Spaniard is certainly in the right headspace to make it happen, now it all comes down to the execution.
“I try to trick myself…” – Paula Badosa
In a recent interview, Badosa responded to questions regarding her unique title defense opportunity by alluding to the changed dates and conditions of last year’s BNP Paribas Open as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “I try to trick myself a little bit and say I won it in October, so I’m not quite defending it,” she told reporters. Indeed, the Spaniard is doing well to keep the pressure at bay and downplay the historical significance of defending the title in California, and this may prove to be an effective strategy to actually do it.
As we witnessed at last year’s US Open men’s singles final when a player is competing for something historical such as Novak Djokovic going for Calendar Slam status, a feat not achieved since Rod Laver in 1969, the pressure can be overwhelming. While not quite the same stakes, Paula Badosa definitely has a degree of heightened nerves to deal with, however her mental strategy of downplaying the feat by remembering the fact that it has not even been six months, let alone a year since she won the title, and you could almost say they are separate events because of the changes in crowd capacities, tournament regulations, and seasonal weather.
Recently discovered form
Not only does Paula Badosa have the mindset to alleviate pressure off herself, but she’s been playing her best tennis and showing her best form in her most recent performances from mid-2021 right through to 2022. From reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon last year and at this year’s Australian Open, the 24-year-old also reached a career-high quarterfinals at the French Open in 2021. Still quite early in her career and with plenty of energy to spare and potential to discover, things are sailing well for the Indian Wells champion as she looks to do more damage on the WTA Tour this year.
Badosa’s performance at this year’s Aussie Open as well as her victory at the Sydney Tennis Classic saw her briefly enter the women’s singles Top 5 ranking at world No.4 as she claimed the third WTA title of her career. With her current form it is possible that the Spaniard is experiencing somewhat of a peak point in her career as she produces many results and tournament performances for the first time. Whether it’s reaching further and further into rounds of majors or winning maiden WTA titles, the world No.7 is showing consistent strides in her performance and is getting some well-earned results.
So far so good!
Powering through her opener against Tereza Martincova, Paula Badosa is playing big where it matters and really showing her stuff as an aggressive baseliner. Her next match will feature a showdown with countrywoman Sara Sorribes Tormo. Looking at their head-to-head statistics, the Spaniard duo are all tied up at two wins each, however Badosa was the winner of their last two clashes where she won in straight sets respectively.
Perhaps it is the stat she would rather think about as she moves into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open and does away with the pressure of becoming the first woman in 30 years to defend the title.
Regardless of speculation, it’s set to be an epic match between these two young ladies as they battle it out for a spot in the fourth round in California. Other noteworthy obstacles for Paula Badosa will undoubtedly include Iga Swiatek who has already advanced to the fourth round, as well as Madison Keys and Simona Halep, all of whom are standing strong in the round of 16. In spite of the huge challenges ahead, I would urge everyone to keep an eye on Paula Badosa as she strives towards making history at this year’s Indian Wells WTA 1000 tournament. (photos: Jimmie48)