Badosa fast sheds underdog tag

 - Dan Imhoff

Javier Marti takes Spanish compatriot Paula Badosa to bold new heights in eight months

Paula Badosa, Roland-Garros 2021 second round©️ Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Paula Badosa is fast figuring out she no longer has the luxury of flying under the radar.

In the space of a few short months, the 23-year-old has gone from rank outsider to a genuine Roland-Garros title contender.

It may seem a stretch at first mention given the Spaniard only snuck into the seedings when Alison Riske withdrew, but her form on clay this year would suggest otherwise, after semi-final runs in Charleston and Madrid and a maiden tour title in Belgrade.

Now, her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

“Paula was playing as the underdog, but in these last weeks she has to switch to the opposite role for many of her matches,” her coach Javier Marti told reporters ahead of his charge's quarter-final showdown with Tamara Zidansek on Tuesday.

“In women’s tennis there are lots of surprises when it comes to results. A player ranked 80, 90 in the world can play at top-10 level.

“This has helped Paula to realise that it doesn’t matter the ranking of the player she is facing. The objective for us, for every match, is to go out and give 100 per cent, that she followed the plan, tried out what we have discussed.

“That’s the only thing that matters. I understand the outside expectations given her recent results, but we focus on something different.”

Bardosa first teamed up with Marti, a former Spanish men’s player, two weeks before her Roland-Garros campaign last September.

She had struggled with the immense expectations that came with claiming the junior title at Roland-Garros in 2015 and being from a nation with a glut of champions, past and present.

“When she first called me, she was mainly focusing on winning. ‘If I win, I’m great. If I lose, I’m not good enough for tennis’, was her way of thinking,” Marti said. “She was not enjoying the process. That was not good.

“If you focus on results, mentally it becomes difficult to handle. I think she wanted to change that too.”

Marti – while only five years Badosa’s senior – offered first-hand experience, having also been earmarked as one of the next big hopes in Spanish tennis.

Paula Badosa, Roland-Garros 2021 fourth round©️ Julien Crosnier/FFT

He too had struggled after promising results as a junior.

“I think he's helping me like everything on the expectations,” Badosa said. “He knows what it is to have expectations when you're very young and you're a very good player, you have a bright future ahead you. That's a little bit my situation.”

Emboldened from having staved off match point in her third-round victory over Ana Bogdan, Badosa held off 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova and now starts favourite against unseeded Zidansek in her first Roland-Garros quarter-final.

“Paula is an ambitious person. That’s good, but our philosophy is to go match by match,” Marti said. “What Paula is achieving is really good. I don’t know if I was expecting these results to be this good, but I knew that with a good training process, with a good daily planning, these results were achievable.”