There was a time, not so long ago - the airwaves sounded like ‘Las chicas son guerreras’ (‘Girls are Warriors’) - in which girls like Silvia Navarro and Carmen Martín, today’s captains of the Spanish handball team lacked female references. Times have changed and now they are the mirror in which thousands of girls can look at themselves.
The figure of Paula Badosa rises, after her exceptional end of the season in 2021 and with the permission of Garbiñe Muguruza, as the benchmark that Spanish women's tennis has been yearning for for years — the times of Arancha and Conchita become distant. It has not been easy for this tennis player to get there and the pressure she feels now, that of competing with the best players in the world for the biggest titles, is what she’s always wanted. As she herself admits: "Blessed pressure!"
Paula Badosa (New York, 1997) has barely had time to savor her sensational end of season, the one that placed her among the best tennis players in the world —she ended the year as number eight in the WTA ranking. In fact, she talks to us in Marbella, between tough training sessions in the gym and on the fast courts of the Puente Romano Tennis Club, with her sights set on the first major of the year: the Australian Open [this interview is published a few days before its start].
Badosa’s objective, of which is squeezed into the facilities until recently run by the late Manolo Santana, is to extend her great moment of form. And 2022 is called to be the year of her consolidation in the elites, thanks to her aggressive and charismatic game. The tennis player recognizes the pressure, but from her current privileged situation and fullness of illusion, she qualifies it as “blessed”. She has everything she needs to keep growing and raising trophies.
If you had to choose a title for next season, what would it be?
[Answers very quickly] Roland Garros. I have always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam and I have special affection for the Parisian tournament. I won the Junior there and because of its conditions I feel very comfortable. In the end it is also a tournament that holds a lot of tradition for Spanish sport and thus would make me very excited to win it.
"Roland Garros holds a lot of tradition for Spanish sport and I would be very excited to win it"
As she herself remembers, Badosa has already tasted the sweetness of triumph in French lands. There, in 2015, she won the Junior Roland Garros. It was her first stellar moment on a court and the one that made her one of the great promises of world tennis. Six years later, that girl who grew up admiring Nadal and Sharapova, raised her first Masters 1000 in Indian Wells. Major words! The title on Californian land was the culminating moment of an ascending season from which, in addition to victories and the best tennis of his career, she drew multiple lessons.
What goal do you set for 2022?
Continue. Continue in the same way, in this line. Now I am enjoying playing tennis every day. Obviously I hope to go on improving in all aspects because if I do, in the end the ranking will be a consequence of that. Since you asked, I would also hope to win tournaments like Indian Wells and hopefully a Grand Slam. And that's what I'm going to be in: in the fight to win those great tournaments.
Does your tennis have any aspect to improve?
In 2021 I have taken very big steps, both mentally and physically. My tennis has improved, but I think I have room for improvement in everything. That is positive, it means that I can still take big steps forward.
"I have room for improvement in everything and that is positive, it means that I can still take great steps forward"
How would you define your style of play?
I think that I am a brave person and I like to play aggressively. If I had to give you a specific word, it would be ‘explosive’: my game is very dynamic, I like to be in control and lead the point. At the same time, I have a lot of character and I think I also transmit that on the court.
Now that everything is going so well for you, do you feel more or less pressure?
There is always pressure. But there are many types of pressure and the exact one that I am experiencing now is different. It's the pressure I've always wanted to have: to be amongst the best in the world and fight to win the big tournaments. Blessed problem! I am where I want to be and I am grateful to have this pressure.
"I would define my game as explosive, I like to be in control and lead the point"
Badosa lived her best professional moment during the last months of 2021, but her career did not always follow an upward trend since the victory in Paris in 2015. Until this last season, ups and downs characterized her performance, to the point that even three years ago she considered abandoning the racket. Therefore, this player has come to know the darker side of elite sport, and that has also helped her to grow on a personal level. She is, in fact, one of the athletes who has spoken out most about mental health.
How does your emotional stability influence your performance?
It's everything. Even more so in an individual sport as mental as tennis. The mental part is a priority and there are times when we leave it a little aside. Fortunately, it is being talked about more and more and I think it is important to normalize it because it influences sports a lot.
"Now I have the pressure that I always wanted to have: to be amongst the best in the world and fight to win the big tournaments"
How do you get that stability?
Through experiences, by going through many processes and being aware of everything lived. You have to take all the moments, good and bad, to get the positive part. This has helped me to become stronger right now and to learn to manage everything.
Are you happy playing tennis?
Yes, I've been saying it for a long time. Maybe now it's easier to say because I'm meeting my goals and enjoying the court, but I had been happy off the court for a long time —and you also transmit that on the tennis court. I'm trying to enjoy the road, every day, be it a training session, a match or a competition. I try to enjoy those little details: I think that's where the key lies.