Paula Badosa is starting to find Australia a lot more to her liking, the rising Spaniard claiming her first title Down Under at the Sydney Tennis Classic.
The world No.9 recovered from a second-set let-down to beat French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-4) in two hours and 24 minutes on Ken Rosewall Arena on Saturday.
Let-down was a key feature of Badosa’s Australian experience last year, the 24-year-old going into hard quarantine with coronavirus before the season-opening slam.
At the time Badosa described feeling “abandoned”, felt the conditions were “lamentable” and summarised her stay as “far and away the worst experience of (her) career.”
Then ranked No.67 in the world, she was bounced out in the Open first round by qualifier Ludmilla Samsonova in three sets.
That all seemed a world away on Saturday as the Melbourne Park smoky racked up her third career title under sunny skies in Sydney.
After a breakthrough rest of 2021, when she picked up two trophies from two finals, made a maiden grand slam quarter-final and rocketed into the top 10, Badosa again delivered.
After gaining a reputation as something of a clay-court slugger, Badosa said she had worked intensively on her hardcourt game and was reaping the results.
“I think I (made) a very good step forward on that, starting with my coach, Jorge (Garcia), he helped me a lot on this big change,” she said.
“For me, it’s very special to win tournaments on hard court, because maybe I was playing very good on clay…
“I think here in Australia the courts are faster, so that change was a little bit tough for me … but I’m really happy that I’m starting to do it…”
She broke Czech world No.4 Krejcikova three times in the opening set, giving one break back but ultimately taking it in 34 minutes.
Badosa looked in striking distance of a straight-sets win at 4-4 in the second set but a loose service game handed the advantage to her opponent who then sealed the deal with ball in hand.
The third set was an arm wrestle and after trading early breaks, both players remained strong on serve.
Krejcikova, who’d saved a remarkable seven set points to outlast Anett Kontaveit in their semi-final, seemed up for the task again and went blow-for-blow with Badosa late in the clash.
But consecutive lost service points midway through the tiebreaker handed the advantage to Badosa, Krejcikova saving one match point before surrendering the clash on serve.
Badosa will face Australian No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic in the Open first round while Krejcikova takes on German Andrea Petkovic.