Clara Tauson is no stranger to making a big splash at Roland-Garros. She was a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 2020 when she came through qualifying and stunned 25th-seeded American Jennifer Brady in her Grand Slam debut on Court Simonne-Mathieu.
Healthy again, Tauson seeks Paris revival
The Dane is fit and hoping to make her mark in Paris
Three years later, the Dane visits Paris under completely different circumstances. After peaking in the rankings at No.33 last February, a back injury forced her into a tailspin that put her career in a holding pattern.
“I have been through a lot, different injuries, different tough ones,” the hard-hitting talent said after dispatching Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-2, 6-0 on Sunday. “It's the first time in my career I had problems.”
Tauson’s tennis has never been a problem. At 18 she won her maiden title in Lyon in 2021 - in her third main draw appearance in a WTA event - then added a second title at Luxembourg.
The Copenhagen native finished 2021 at No.44 in the WTA rankings, and started 2022 with a trip to the third round at the Australian Open. Still 19, she was ticketed for the top of the sport.
Back on the up
Then injuries intervened, and her ranking plummeted.
“It's always annoying to get injured, especially when I was on my way up and doing really good,” Tauson told a gathering of reporters in the tournament’s main interview room on Sunday.
“It was hard for me, but I kept fighting and kept believing in myself.
“Not that I'm there yet, but I feel like I'm going there now and I'm on the right way – it's just nice to be back.”
Slow and steady
Tauson explains that dealing with injuries has helped her understand her body better. She plans to work smarter, though not necessarily harder.
“I obviously had to adjust some things,” she admits. “I was practising a lot of hours every single day. You have to do that, but sometimes you need to think about the quality over the quantity. I'm doing that now. Still working a lot, of course, but not as many hours.
“I think I just needed to learn that I need to listen to my body sometimes, and I need to give it rest.”
In 2023, Tauson has dropped down to the ITF level, playing nearly 40 matches below WTA level since last October. Recognising that it's part of the process, she hasn't shied away from the grind.
“It's obviously different, but I have been through ITF before and I know how it is. I don't feel uncomfortable there, but of course I would rather be here.”
Relishing the competition
Back on the sports' biggest clay stage, Tauson is playing loose and free. The world No.127, who will next face Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in a rematch of the 2019 Australian Open girls' final, is relieved that her time toiling in relative obscurity is over.
"I'm looking forward to playing on some bigger courts," she said after playing in front of an energetic crowd spotted with Danish supporters on Sunday. "Yeah, even Court 8 here is big for me now."
It's all part of the process for Tauson as she competes in her third Roland-Garros main draw, and seventh at a Grand Slam.
"I think everybody has a different journey and I'm on mine," she said. "I'm still young and have lots of time. I have to keep reminding myself I'm only 20 years old, and I did some great stuff in the past, but I have to look forward now."