Paula Badosa’s slow but steady progress has finally been rewarded. The Manhattan-born Spaniard won the inaugural WTA Serbia Ladies Open – her maiden tour-level title – after her opponent, Ana Konjuh retired midway through the second set with an injury.
In a battle between two 23-year-olds whose career paths had taken completely opposite itineraries, it appears there is some sort of symmetry in how both players are determined to achieve their potential.
Badosa, in red hot form during this clay swing, led 6-2 2-0 in the championship match, before her Croatian opponent retired with what appeared to be an upper leg injury.
A final cut short but what a week for both players 😊@paulabadosa claims her first WTA title after Konjuh retires due to injury.
— wta (@WTA) May 22, 2021
The tournament itself, in its first edition on the WTA tour, was a forgettable one. Rain washed away the courts for most of the week with some matches suspended and taking three days to complete. This schedule meant that the two semifinal matches were both played on Saturday, and in less than five hours the finalists were due on court to play the final.
Konjuh’s injury troubles have been well documented in the past and expressed her concerns after winning her semifinal over the Colombian sensation Maria Osorio Serrano. She recovered from a career-threatening elbow injury last year but had to wait for her second chance at the start of this season to make her long-awaited return to tour-level tennis.
But her injury in Belgrade is not related to her persistent elbow issue of the past three years. She appeared to grimace occasionally between points with her mobility hampered. Despite the disappointment, Konjuh’s return to her first final in four years is another feel-good story to her promising career which hasn’t quite hit its peak height.
For Badosa, this success is a coronation of the outstanding run of form she displayed during the European clay swing. And it appears a lot is in store with Roland Garros on the horizon. Badosa reached the fourth round of the French Open last year, beating Jelena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens en route to her best result in a Grand Slam. She will crack the world’s top 40 for the first time in her career.
Paula Badosa’s scintillating clay season continues, wins her 1st WTA title in Belgrade. 7th 1st time winner in 2021.
The Spaniard has now won 13 of her last 15 matches:
Charleston 500: SF
Madrid 1000: SF
Belgrade 250: 🏆
Will make her Top 40 debut on Monday.#SerbiaLadiesOpen
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 22, 2021
And Badosa has left an imprint these last few weeks as she heads to Paris with a title in the bag. With victories of Belinda Bencic and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, along with a breathtaking run to the semifinals of the Madrid Open, this hard-hitting Spaniard is the name everyone will want to avoid.