Can Coach-less Paula Badosa Keep up the Momentum at US Open?

Paula Badosa
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Paula Badosa, a New Yorker by birth, is in the midst of a career season. At 33 wins and just 13 losses, the Spaniard is currently No. 25 in the Race to Shenzhen and has won at least three matches at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Tokyo Olympics and Cincinnati. While these results should inspire loads of confidence, there are several question marks ahead of her debut versus Alison Van Uytvanck.

Coaching carousel

Ever since the 2020 US Open, Badosa has parted ways with not one, but two coaches. In early September, the Spaniard had a big run to the WTA Istanbul semifinals, her best result of last season. All of the sudden, she announced she’d stop working with longtime coach Xavi Budo. The announcement was unexpected.

A few weeks later, she showed up at Roland Garros with Javier Marti, an injury-riddled former ATP No. 170. Then 28 years of age, Marti hadn’t officially retired, but had begun playing some World Padel Tour events earlier in the year.

The Badosa-Marti partnership produced a good result right off the bat, with a round of 16 showing in Paris. Yet, the major improvements were made during the offseason in Spain. After a positive COVID-19 test forced the pair to quarantine for three weeks in a hotel room and sabotaged their Australian Open chances, Badosa started to rack up wins in the spring. The Lyon, Charleston and Madrid semis were a prelude to the Belgrade title, her maiden at tour level.

Tamara Zidansek stopped her in the Roland Garros quarters in a nail-biter, 7-5 4-6 8-6, whereas a heat stroke ended her chances at the Olympics in the same round. Still, Badosa was without a doubt one of the revelations on tour and Marti was garnering some Coach of the Year buzz on Twitter.

However, following a disappointing loss to Rebecca Marino in Montreal, Badosa dropped the bomb: she and Marti were immediately ending their professional relationship. If Budo’s termination was surprising, this one was flat out shocking. While the numbers and the eye test suggested it was a fruitful combo with long term potential, issues off the court aren’t known by fans or media. I’m not going to speculate about the catalyst for this unforeseen split.

For now, Paula Badosa arrives in Flushing Meadows without a coach.

Poor precedents

Aside from the coaching instability, as mentioned above, a few obstacles stand in between Badosa and her potential success at the US Open. First, she’s never won a main draw match in New York. Granted, she’s nowhere near the player she was in her 2020 and 2019 losses. Similar reasoning applies to her negative head-to-head (1-0) against Van Uytvanck. That defeat came in 2019 on clay, plus the Belgian owns a weak 7-11 record this season away from grass.

The final and most legitimate question mark is whether Badosa’s body will hold up. She retired from two of her past three tournaments, including at Cincinnati, where her shoulder betrayed her.

For all these reasons, Paula Badosa deserves attention in the first round. Will the 23-year-old sustain her sensational level without a coach? Or will she fall to Van Uytvanck?

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