Tauson’s dream debut will make Wozniacki proud

 - Danielle Rossingh

Danish 17-year-old claims statement victory over No.21 seed Brady in her maiden Grand Slam main draw match

Clara Tauson, Roland Garros 2020, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Danish tennis suffered a major blow when former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki retired.

But eight months after she hung up her racquets, Denmark has produced a new rising star with similarly strong groundstrokes and superb mental strength: Clara Tauson.

Playing in her first Grand Slam main draw match at Roland-Garros on Tuesday, the 17-year-old qualifier battled with injury and saved two match points before beating US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

“It’s kind of an insane feeling, I didn’t expect it going into the match,” Tauson told reporters after winning one of the best women’s matches so far in two hours, 45 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

“She was in the semi-finals of the US Open, so I was just grateful to be there and just happy that I could play a girl like her on a big court. It was a dream come true, of course, and then winning the match, I don’t have any words yet. It was so great, I’ve never really experienced a match like that,” said Tauson, who was down a break in the final set.

Marquee support

Tauson’s match was watched by four-time Roland-Garros winner Justine Henin. Tauson currently trains at the Belgian academy owned by the former world No. 1.

Tauson had been the first Danish woman besides Wozniacki to play in a Grand Slam main draw since Eva Dryberg at the 2003 Australian Open. Her win against Brady means she is now the first Danish woman not named Wozniacki into the second round of a major in 31 years.  

“Denmark is such a small tennis country, and of course she was my biggest role model growing up. She made it out, and that made me think I could make it out also on the tour. We get compared a lot, but I am my own person, and she is her own person. I am just trying to focus on myself,” said Tauson, who added that she occasionally practised with Wozniacki last year.

Mental fortitude

Despite facing one of the most in-form players this season, Tauson played freely and was never intimidated by the occasion. Her left thigh strapped after a medical timeout at the start of the second set, the teenager kept a cool head when she faced two match points against the No. 21 seed.

Tauson didn’t succumb either when she squandered four match points of her own. Instead, she remained patient, saving a break point in the final game, before a big serve on the fifth match point sealed the match.

Clara Tauson, Roland Garros 2020, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Tauson’s never-say-die attitude is not the only thing she has in common with Wozniacki, who was one of the most consistent performers in the women’s game.

Just like her famous countrywoman, Tauson was an outstanding junior, who became world No. 1 after winning the 2019 Australian Open girls’ singles. Both women were also at times coached by their fathers. Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, was a pro football player, while Tauson’s father, Soren, was an ice hockey pro.

Transition to the pros

She is only 17 but Tauson has adapted remarkably well from playing junior tennis to competing on the senior tour.

“We played an amazing match today, probably the highest-quality tennis I’ve ever played in my life,” she said. “I have adjusted, and I think that I am ready to be on this level, but you still have to break into the top 100 and there is still a long way for that...and I feel good to play against those kind of players.”

Another tough American awaits her in the second round: former Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins.

“She’s a hard-hitter, Jen was as well today, but she maybe is a little bit more consistent,” Tauson said. “I’ve never played girls like this before, so I cannot say too much. Danielle, she is a very good player.”

Wozniacki’s wish

During the Australian Open in January, her final tournament, Wozniacki talked about how proud she was of the legacy she had created in her home country.

“It’s amazing to see all these young, both girls and boys, being on the tennis courts and how tennis is thriving and doing well,” Wozniacki told reporters. “It’s great, I hope we can move that forward, and I hope I’ve proven and shown for the younger generation that it’s possible to be from Denmark and be a great tennis player. So I hope we’re going to have many more in the future.”

It looks like Wozniacki’s wish has already come true.