Clara Tauson Handling Expectations Well Heading into 2021

What were you doing when you were 14 years old?

For many, the early teenage years was filled with activities such as video games, pick-up football in the local park, and trips to the mall.

However, for 14 year-old Clara Tauson, it was taking down a seasoned pro in a professional tennis tournament. For Tauson had completed the nearly unprecedented feat of winning an ITF $15k in Stockholm at such a young age. Even in 2017, the Dane’s expectations were sky-high.

Then, in 2018, Tauson tore through the ITF Junior Circuit. While the Dane ended the season professionally at World No. 863, she had amassed an arsenal of juniors success. Tauson took home five juniors titles that season to add to the two she already claimed in years past.

And when Tauson lifted the 2019 Australian Open juniors title over Leylah Fernandez in straight sets, tennis fans following the juniors ranks knew that a special tennis player was about to take the professional tennis world by storm.

And she didn’t disappoint as she turned her attention fully to professional tennis, winning four ITF titles, including two ITF $60k’s over the court of 2019. By the end of the year, Tauson was already up to World No. 267.

And, in 2020, only a global pandemic could stop Tauson’s ascent up the rankings. Before the hiatus, won another ITF tournament, taking out Victoriya Tomova 6-4 6-0 in the final. This is especially impressive given Tomova’s standing at World No. 151 at the time.

Tauson allowed the hiatus to only be a small speed-bump for her. Immediately following the stoppage, she won yet another ITF title in Oeiras, bringing her grand total of ITF titles to seven at only 17 years of age! Tauson was having massive success at both the junior and professional level at a very young age.

However, taking that next step and performing at bigger tournaments is a much more difficult ask. Would Tauson be up to the task? Or would her game fail to translate to the upper-echelons of women’s tennis.

After winning Oeiras, Tauson would play the WTA $125k event in Prague. After a comfortable win in the first round over home player Linda Fruhvirtova, the Dane was matched up with former World No. 5 Sara Errani. While Errani has certainly lost a step since she was at that ranking in May of 2013, she is still a dangerous player on clay.

But this didn’t faze Tauson, as she was able to hit through Errani’s defenses, winning the match 6-3 7-5. Even when things got tight in the second set and the experienced Italian was desperately trying to get the 17-year-old to crack, furiously chasing after every ball and forcing Tauson to hit so many extra shots, Tauson stood tall.

And Tauson backed up this important win with another straight sets victory over a talented rising player in Maja Chwalinska before ultimately falling in three sets to the solid clay courter Kristina Kucova in the fourth round.

However, despite falling short, it was a very solid and encouraging second-ever WTA $125k for the Dane. In 2019, she played the $125k in Bastad, but got a tough opening round draw in Elena Rybakina, who is currently inside the top 20 in the World. Still, Tauson put together a solid performance in the 4-6 6-7(5) loss.

The next time Tauson would make a splash was at one of the biggest events of them all: the 2020 French Open.

Tauson needed to qualify for the tournament. In the first round of qualifying, the Dane survived a three-setter to beat Gabriela Talaba. However, she wouldn’t lose a set either of her final two qualifying matches, including a 6-1, 6-2 beatdown over recent Palermo quarterfinalist Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the semifinals of qualifying.

In the first round of the main draw, Tauson was matched up against 2020 US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady. Brady has played her best tennis in 2020 and was a very formidable for any opponent, let alone a 17 year-old qualifier.

Yet, Tauson didn’t let this phase her and survived a very tight, epic third set to win the match 6-4, 3-6, 9-7. What was most apparent from the match was Tauson’s ability to control the baseline, even against such a powerful ball-striker in Brady.

Brady hits heavy, deep groundstrokes and has a nasty serve. So, for Tauson to not only be able to hang in there, but actually gain control of points and move Brady around the court on a consistent basis was very impressive. Tauson was proving herself on the biggest stage in the sport.

And while Tauson would lose her next match to the fiery Danielle Collins, given what she had already accomplished, it was already a wildly successful Roland Garros for the Dane.

Tauson finished the year qualifying and then making the quarterfinals of an ITF $80k hard court event in Tyler. Tauson’s most impressive match was certainly when she came back from a set down to beat 2020 US Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers. Again, like in the match against Brady, Tauson was crushing balls from the baseline, hitting with immaculate depth and pace.

And if Tauson didn’t have to play her quarterfinal match against Ann Li the same day as her long second round match against Rogers, who knows how she ends up doing in that tournament.

It would be easy to make comparisons of Clara Tauson to Caroline Wozniacki, given they’re both Danish. However, their games are much different from one another.

Wozniacki was much more comfortable on the defensive and counterpunching than Tauson currently is. Tauson’s movement isn’t near the level that Wozniacki’s was, but she hits bigger groundstrokes and can play a highly aggressive, power tennis game that tennis fans didn’t see much of from Wozniacki during her spectacular career.

Tauson is currently World No. 152, just one spot away from her career high of World No. 151. She’s been consistently rising in the ranking and meeting the grand expectations set on her from such early success.

2021 is setting up to be a big year for the Dane, and given how she’s played in 2020, there’s very little doubt that she will continue on her current trajectory and make the top 100 before the end of 2021.

After her French Open match against Brady, Tauson told the WTA’s Alex Macpherson, “We played an amazing match today, probably the highest-quality tennis I’ve ever played in my life.”

Given Clara Tauson’s ability to exceed and rebuild new expectations, expect that high quality of tennis to continue.

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