Paula Badosa – World No. 2. Contender or Pretender?

Paula Badosa in action at the French Open.
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Paula Badosa reached a career high ranking of World No. 2 when the latest WTA rankings were released on April 25th. The Spaniard is the second best ranked player in the world, but she’s yet to really make an impact at the Grand Slam level. What does this mean; is she the real deal or not?

Paula Badosa: Contender or Pretender

A Rapid Rise

It’s been a rapid rise to the top of the game for Badosa, who 12 months before reaching World No. 2 was relatively unknown and ranked at No. 62. Badosa made her first big breakthrough in front of her home fans in Madrid in 2021, as she went all the way to the semifinals as a wild card. The 24-year-old used that run as a springboard, ultimately having a stellar clay court swing as she captured her first WTA singles title in Belgrade and achieved her greatest result at a Major by reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

Badosa made her next big move in late 2021 by winning her first 1000 level title in Indian Wells, which secured her a spot in the top 10 and place in the WTA Finals. A steady start to 2022, including a title in Sydney as well as semifinals in Indian Wells and Stuttgart have catapulted Badosa to No. 2 in the world.

Big Match Woes

It’s been a magnificent 12 months for Badosa, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s reasonable to question whether she is truly the second best player in the world given her consistent lapses in big matches and on the biggest stages. In 2021 Badosa was beaten by Ludmilla Samsonova, Tamara Zidansek, Karolina Muchova and Varvara Gracheva in the Majors, reaching a single quarterfinal where she missed a golden opportunity in a 6-8 final set loss to Zidansek. There’s huge room for improvement at the Majors.

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In 2022, Badosa has gone missing at critical stages in some of her biggest matches. A lackluster performance during 3-6 1-6 loss to Madison Keys at the fourth round of the Australian Open is prime example. A 1-6 deciding set loss to Maria Sakkari in the Indian Wells semifinals and a tight straight set loss to Aryna Sabalenka in the Stuttgart semifinals are some more recent examples of Badosa failing to show up in crucial moments. A serious top player wouldn’t consistently go missing on such occasions.

The Verdict

Is Badosa a great player? Clearly, she is. One doesn’t get to No. 2 in the world without being a great player. We can argue that Badosa has been opportunistic by making the most of a relatively unstable period in the women’s game where just about anyone in the Top 50 can beat anyone on any given day. Her consistency over the past year has been admirable; that is why she is where she is. Is Badosa a legitimate No. 2? I don’t think so. At least, not yet. The Spaniard still has a lot to prove, especially at the Grand Slams. It’s time for Badosa to prove herself on the biggest stages and become a contender at the Grand Slams to match her lofty ranking.

Main Photo from Getty.