Badosa Stuns Top Seed Barty In Charleston

Paula Badosa (photo: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 10, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Paula Badosa‘s career-best week on green clay at the WTA 500 Volvo Car Open just keeps getting better. Two days after achieving her first Top 20 win, she’s done it again. Only this time, Friday evening, she upset World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to reach her biggest semifinal.

The New York City-born Spaniard dominated Barty, both with her serve and from the baseline, en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory that advanced Badosa into Saturday’s semifinal round. She will play  No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who eased past No. 57 Sloane Stephens of the United States, 6-3, 6-4, thanks to winning 88 percent of her first serves and breaking her opponent’s serve four times in five tries.

The other semifinal will match No. 91 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro against No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. None of Saturday’s semifinalists have ever won a WTA tour-level title.

Barty’s setback dropped her 2021 win-loss record to 16-3. It ended the Aussie’s eight-match winning streak, including last weekend’s Miami Open title. Now, she will take a few days off to rest and recover in Charleston before heading off with her team to Europe to play on red clay in upcoming tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome in the lead up to Roland Garros.

After beating both World No. 12 Belinda Bencic and Barty in the same week, Badosa has begun rewriting her own history very quickly. During a television interview with Tennis Channel shortly after she garnered her victory over Barty, Badosa said, “I’m still a little bit shocked. I can’t quite believe what just happened. I’m quite happy with the match and how I handled my nerves. It was quite important.”

The 71st-ranked Badosa represented the lowest-ranked player that Barty has lost to since losing to then-198th-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Western & Southern Open in August 2019.

On the eve of playing Barty, Badosa told Tennis TourTalk: “I don’t have words to describe Ash Barty. She’s a very good player. OK, I’m going to be honest: I want to play her because I’ve never played a World No. 1 and I want to see what it is like to play against a World No. 1.”

Badosa saw up close and personal Friday evening on Althea Gibson Club Court at LTP-Daniel Island Tennis Center what it’s like to face a World No. 1. Guess what? She took advantage of her opportunities and maintained her composure during the 76-minute victory over Barty. Badosa hit 19 winners, including seven aces, committed just 12 unforced errors and saved 12 of 14 break points she faced. Although Barty pounded 34 winners, she committed 24 unforced errors and Badosa broke the top-seeded Barty’s serve five times in 10 tries. Badosa outpointed her opponent 72-62.

During her virtual post-match press conference, Tennis TourTalk reminded Badosa of what she said Thursday and asked if playing Barty lived up to or exceeded her expectations. Badosa said: “[Ash] is an amazing player. In the beginning, maybe I was a little surprised with her forehand and how fast it was, and she served very well and the slice doesn’t bounce. It was quite tough for me to get used to her game. She plays unbelievable, but I’m quite happy. I think when you play a player like that, the energy on court is different. It’s different because you’re nervous. I loved every moment on court and now I’m even happier I could win.”

Meanwhile, Barty gave due props to Badosa when she spoke virtually to reporters. Tennis TourTalk asked Barty to pick out some qualities she saw in Badosa. She replied: “She’s a great player, a quality opponent. She competes well and I thought tonight she served exceptionally well. She controlled the center of the court [with her forehand] during the biggest moments.”

Around the Volvo Car Open

• Unseeded Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, ranked 91st, continued her string of good fortune this week in Charleston. Just a day after she beat No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova, Kovinic took out No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 6-1 in two hours and 53 minutes Friday afternoon. It advanced her to her first WTA semifinal in five years.

Kovinic came back to win after being two points away from a straight-set loss. She broke Putintseva seven times, including three in the deciding set, to close out the victory and reach the semifinals in Charleston for the first time.

As the face of Montenegro tennis, Kovinic was asked by Tennis TourTalk if she embraces the label or feel any pressure being the top-ranked player from her country. She responded: “No, I don’t feel any pressure, to be honest. I know I’m the first one to be doing any good on the WTA tour. I hope that people back home will really appreciate what I’m doing for my country. I feel their support but I don’t feel any pressure. I’m proud to represent my country and I always will.”

• Next, Kovinic will play No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who defeated No. 14 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 20 minutes.

Jabeur is a master of the drop shot and she used it to near perfection in beating the American teenager Gauff. The Tunisian, who achieved a career-best ranking of No. 28 earlier this week, hit 24 winners and converted six of nine break-point opportunities. She snapped a two-match losing streak to Gauff after having lost to her twice last year, at Lexington, Ky., on a hard-court surface and in Rome on clay.

Gauff was hampered by 31 unforced errors and was able to only break Jabeur three times in 11 tries. Jabeur outpointed the 36th-ranked Gauff 74-55.

After reaching five quarterfinals in 2020, Jabeur won her first quarterfinal appearance this year and is into her first semifinal in two years. Asked by Tennis TourTalk what it means to break through the quarterfinal barrier and go further in a tournament, Jabeur said: “I guess it takes me six quarterfinals to make it to a semifinal (laughs). It means a lot. I know I have been playing good lately. I’m just trying to not make the same mistakes that I have before. There’s been so many close quarterfinals last year. I’m really glad I got the win this time. I am looking forward to going further this time. It’s been a great week. I hope I can continue to play better.”

• Afterward, Gauff was forced to withdraw from her doubles quarterfinal with fellow American Caty McNally with a right hip injury. It meant that No. 4 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States advanced to the semifinals by walkover. Guarachi and Krawczyk will face the Czech team of Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka, who earlier in the day earned a walkover against No. 2 seeds Timea Babos of Hungary and Veronika Kudermetova after Babos became ill.

• Saturday’s order of play will begin and end with the doubles semifinals bookending the singles semifinals. First, No. 1 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands will face unseeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Asia Muhammad of the United States at 10:45 a.m. The other doubles semifinal at the end of the day will match Guarachi and Krawczyk against Bouzkova and Hradecka. The first singles semifinal, not before 1 p.m., will feature Kovinic against  Jabeur and be followed by Badosa against Kudermetova. Looking ahead, Sunday’s doubles final will start at 10:45 a.m. with the singles final to be played not before 1 p.m.

Zidansek only seed remaining at Copa Colsanitas

Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who began the week as the No. 5 seed in the WTA 250 Copa Colsanitas in Bogotá, Colombia on red clay, has reached the semifinal round as the only seed remaining in the draw.

On Friday, Zidansek advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Italy’s Sara Errani. She will face Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria, who rallied to defeat Spanish qualifier Nuria Parrizas Diaz, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

In the other half of the draw, Colombian wild card Maria Camila Osorio Serrano continued to impress in front of her home country fans. She won 6-3, 7-5 over Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele, and will oppose French qualifier Harmony Tan, who took out qualifier Lara Arruabarrena of Spain, 6-1, 6-4.

“I’m so proud of everything I did [today] and have done this week,” Osorio Serrano said during a virtual press conference following her quarterfinal victory. “I’m playing really well, focusing on my game, and not thinking too much about the other girls. I think that has been the key for the three matches I have played. My feelings [for the semifinals] is I cannot wait to get on court, again, and play my best. I am enjoying every minute on the court. Hopefully, I can do better and win, again, and be in the final.”

• Saturday’s order of play will begin at 10 a.m. with the Tomova-Zidansek semifinal followed by Osorio Serrano versus Tan. Then, the doubles final will match Elixane Lechemia of France and Ingrid Neel of the United States against No. 3 seeds Mihaela Buzarnescu and Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany.