Paula Badosa Beats Daria Kasatkina For Biggest Comeback Win After Injury

Paula Badosa Miami Open

Paula Badosa’s victory over Daria Kasatkina in the third round at Wimbledon 2024 represents her biggest comeback win after the back injuries that have tormented her over the last two years. In an early rounds epic in London SW19, which was delayed first by rain and then by a spectator’s illness, Badosa finally won in three sets – 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-4 – in just under three hours.

Badosa Beats Kasatkina For Biggest Comeback Win

Just over two years ago, the same two players had met in another third-round match at the 2022 Italian Open. It is fair to say that since that match in Rome, the two players’ career trajectories have completely switched tracks. Badosa went into that match in the Italian capital as the second seed, having been ranked as highly as No.2 in the world earlier in the year. By contrast, at that time, Kasatkina was still in the middle of a long slump in form that had seen her slide back down the rankings since first breaking through on the WTA Tour in 2018, when she reached the French Open semi-final at the age of 18.

Two years on from their encounter in Rome, Badosa has not so much slid down the rankings as gone into freefall, mainly as the result of the stress fracture to her back that she suffered after Wimbledon 2023. That injury ended up keeping her off court for more than six months until her return at this year’s Australian Open. By complete contrast, Kasatkina’s defeat of Badosa in Rome effectively acted as the springboard to the second half of her career, as she followed it up by reaching the 2022 French Open semi-final and has been consistently in good form since.

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Kasatkina Had Been The New Queen of Grass

Indeed, Kasatkina had been the new queen of grass, having won Eastbourne, the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event for women, and then extended her winning streak in the first two rounds at Wimbledon. When she faced Badosa, she was actually going for an eighth successive win on grass, which would have been the best-winning record on any surface that she had ever enjoyed in her career.

Nevertheless, Badosa seemed emboldened from the start of her match with Kasatkina in London SW18, breaking her in her first service game and taking a 3-0 lead in the first set. However, in a prefiguring of the match as a whole, Kasatkina demonstrated all her new-found confidence on the grass to break back and take the set to a tie-break. Undeterred by her opponent’s impressive resistance, Badosa eventually won the tie-break 8-6.

It seemed as if Badosa might even be set for a straight-sets win, but Kasatkina has added calm and poise to her dazzling array of shots, including the “behind the back” shots that she somehow makes after the ball seems to have passed her. (Perhaps only Carlos Alcaraz can match her in this department in the whole of tennis.) She ended up breaking the Spaniard in the final game of the second set to take it 6-4.

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A Truly Epic Third Set

The third set was truly epic, featuring several breaks of serve and numerous switches of momentum. Kasatkina broke first and seemed on course for victory until Badosa broke back to ensure that the set remained level at 4-4. And then Badosa showed almost superhuman strength, especially considering the enormous trauma that her back has suffered (so much so that she has talked at times about quitting tennis), first to somehow hold off Kasatkina’s break points on her serve and then to break her yet again to seal victory.

It is undoubtedly the biggest victory of Badosa’s injury comeback so far. In defeating an in-form opponent who had begun to appear almost unbeatable on grass, she has re-established her own credentials as a serious contender at Majors. She has also now equaled her best performance at Wimbledon, having reached the fourth round in 2021 and 2022. And in Aryna Sabalenka’s injury-enforced absence from the tournament this year, her section of the draw is opening up, so much so that she can dream of at least making the quarter-finals.

But for Badosa, the real dream is already being realised, namely to play tennis at the top level that she had become accustomed to playing it during her breakthrough year of 2021. At the end of that year, she seemed destined to contend for a Major Singles title. Injury has delayed that ambition, and it may yet have curtailed it completely. However, for now, at least, she can enjoy a fabulous comeback win and look forward to competing seriously in the second week of a Major for the first time in a long time.

Main Photo Credit: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

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