She had a shoulder injury.
She double-faulted eleven times.
She hit four fewer winners and eight more unforced errors than her opponent.
And she won Indian Wells, in a three-hour thriller that stands out as a highlight of the 2021 season.
Paula Badosa of Spain also had the draw from hell. In order to get to the final, she had to beat Dayana Yastremska, Coco Gauff, French Open champion and 3rd seed Barbora Krecjikova, the always formidable Angie Kerber, and Ons Jabeur. Her opponent in that final was two-time BNP Paribas Open champion Vika Azarenka, which would be enough to put fear into even the most seasoned competitor.
Badosa's backstory is dramatic in itself. The first player to test positive for the Covid-19 virus at the Australian Open, she was placed in an extended quarantine. During that time, she said, she wasn't given the training equipment that she had requested, so she resorted to using water bottles as weights and doing sit-ups in her 50-square foot room. Badosa said that she felt abandoned by tournament organizers.
Then there was the French Open, where the Spanish player emerged as a threat after having just won her first title in Belgrade. And she did make it all the way to the quarterfinals, but lost to Tamara Zidansek in a tight and thrilling 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 contest.
Badosa, seeded 21st, was a very worthy opponent for 27th seed Azarenka. They engaged in lengthy baseline rallies featuring some stinging shots. Badosa looked kind of tired in the third set, or perhaps her shoulder was bothering her more than usual. She had taken out four top-20 players en route to the final, but had dropped only one set (to Yastremska). Nevertheless, her fighting spirit was, well--Azarenka-like.
And when it mattered, it was Badosa who made the high-risk shots count at the right times. In the final tiebreak, she was nothing short of brilliant, and defeated Azarenka 7-6, 2-6, 7-6. "I wouldn't be here without you," she told the Belarusian veteran when she accepted the trophy.
Playing in the longest final of the season, Badosa is the first Spanish woman to win Indian Wells, a prestigious 1000 event. As of tomorrow, she will be number 11 in the world, and she's definitely on a path to the WTA Finals.