Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Paula Badosa gets her first top 20 win and shows impressive mental strength

Paula Badosa (photo courtesy of Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

She served for the match twice, lost a second set tiebreak, and then immediately went up 3-0 in the third set. Who does that? Paula Badosa does that, or at least she did it today in her second round match against fifth seed Belinda Bencic. 

It obviously wasn't a smooth ride. Badosa needed five match points to seal the victory, and she also had to contend with hitting eleven double faults (I should add, though, that she hit ten aces). And the second set featured a revived Bencic, who looked like she was going to wipe out the Spanish player's chances.

But Badosa continued her aggressive game plan, and--with a 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 victory--she marked her first-ever win against a top twenty player. 

A side note: My plan was to ask for a press conference with Badosa, but I suddenly found myself in the middle of a household crisis (I was frantically drying my hair in order to get on Zoom in time for Badosa's press conference, and then workmen unexpectedly showed up at my door, so I didn't have a chance to request her. ) I just assumed that someone else had requested her for a press conference, but then it became evident that no one had, which really surprised me because that was a huge win.

Next for Badosa is Caty McNally, who defeated Anastasija Sevastova in their second round match.

Lauren Davis (photo courtesy of Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith

Second seed Sofia Kenin was upset in the second round by Lauren Davis, who defeated her 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The match took interesting turn in the third set, with Davis up 3-0, when Kenin took a medical time-out, apparently for a groin injury. And while it took Davis a little while to get her momentum back, she eventually found it, and won the match on her second match point.

Talking about her strategy, Davis said:

“I went in with a certain game plan and found that it wasn’t working so much, and I was a bit uncomfortable, so I just really dug deep and really started thinking about how to beat her, and I found that, like, heavy deep balls were not her favorite and being on clay, the ball bounces high, and pushing girls back is very effective, so I did that. And then also, I changed my serve a bit, like I made more first serves, put more height on the ball, more topspin….”

Alize Cornet (photo courtesy of Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

I consider Alize Cornet the biggest under-achiever on the tour. On those occasions when she meets her potential, it's such a pleasure to watch her. Today was one one of those days when she met it, upsetting 7th seed Elise Mertens. Cornet was splendid in her gutsy 7-5, 6-3 victory. Next for her is 12th seed Ons Jabeur.

Rising Canadian star Leylah Fernandez was defeated by Danka Kovinic, and Emma Navarro, who won her first WTA main draw match yesterday, was defeated by 15th seed Veronika Kudermetova. Kurumi Nara, 12th seed Ons Jabeur, and top seed Ash Barty all won their matches today, as did Ajla Tomljanovic, who upset 17th seed Marie Bouzkova. 14th seed Coco Gauff defeated Liudmila Samsanova, and 2016 champion Sloane Stephens defeated eighth seed and defending champion Madison Keys. Stephens and Keys were the only two remaining former champions, after both 2014 champion Andrea Petkovic and 2018 champion Kiki Bertens withdrew from the event.

In the final match of the evening, we had a little of everything--18 breaks of serve, muttering, an injury, and a racket abuse warning, followed by a point penalty for leaving the court for an unauthorized destination. In just over half an hour, 13th seed Amanda Anisimova was up 6-1, 4-1 over Shelby Rogers. Anisimova, however, sustained a groin injury and have to have treatment. When she returned to the court, chaos reigned for the remainder of the match.

For one thing, it was quite clear that Anisimova was in pain; her movement was hampered, and she frequently grabbed her leg. She was also totally fed up, which led to the racket abuse incident. The unauthorized journey off of the court remains a mystery. All I know is that she reported that she was going to the restroom but went somewhere else. 

Despite being in physical and emotional pain, Anisimova was two points away from winning the match. Rogers broke, however, and went on to win the second set 7-5. The third set was close, though Anisimova was clearly in a meltdown. Rogers won the very unusual match, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Afterwards, in her press conference, she was quite candid (which we would expect of Shelby Rogers), and was able to laugh--quite a bit--at everything that had happened.

“I don’t ask questions sometimes," she said, "I was just trying to fight every single point, keep getting balls back as best I could, try to problem-solve my way through her array of winners that she was hitting….

Asked about the dramatic turnaround that she made, Rogers replied: “That was quite the turnaround, quite the predicament, I still haven’t really processed it all….I’m just so happy to move on and get away from that.

“That was about the most overwhelmed I’ve been in a long time, at the beginning of the match, just feeling like I couldn’t do anything right. She was not missing a ball, I wasn’t making a ball. It was just this perfect storm of really tough times. That’s the beautiful thing about tennis—you can always come back, right?"

Rogers' reward for surviving tonight's bizarre match? She plays world number 1 Ash Barty. Asked about that, Rogers said, “She’s so solid, it’s pretty tough to find a hole in her game.”

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