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Paula Badosa has a chance to stand out from the crowd

Paula Badosa has not yet reached the semifinal round of a major tennis tournament. She is the reigning Indian Wells champion, but she hasn’t cracked the code at one of the Big Four events in tennis.

The Australian Open marks a huge opportunity for Badosa to elevate her status in women’s tennis, not just in a vacuum, but in a larger context.

It goes without saying that winning a first major title instantly transforms a career and its expectations. Look at how life changed for Emma Raducanu after her extraordinary U.S. Open title. Anyone who hasn’t yet climbed this mountain thirsts for a career-transforming prize. No one needs an explanation of how a major championship completely rewrites a tennis career.

Yet, for Badosa in particular, this Australian Open is freighted with possibility and potential in ways which transcend the value of a major title. Beyond that obvious goal, Badosa could be seen differently from a number of her peers, including Raducanu.

Stop for a moment and realize that after the first two rounds of the women’s Australian Open, the players who competed for the WTA Finals championship, Garbine Muguruza (champion) and Anett Kontaveit (runner-up) are both out of the tournament. They both lost in the second round.

Realize that the two finalists at the 2021 U.S. Open are also gone, with Raducanu joining Leylah Fernandez on a plane flight out of Melbourne.

The players who stole the show at the last two big events of 2021 — the U.S. Open and then the year-end championships — are out of the Australian Open.

Badosa, as the Indian Wells champion, a 2021 Roland Garros quarterfinalist, and a WTA Finals semifinalist, produced a number of noteworthy results last year, but what stands out in her 2021 profile is that she improved after the U.S. Open ended. She — like Kontaveit in particular — made a very strong late-season push. Kontaveit, however, couldn’t carry that late-season run into the early part of 2022.

If Badosa — very much a target for other WTA players after her late-year successes in 2021 — can come to Australia and make a very deep run, that will gain a lot of respect (and attention) in the locker room. Badosa could significantly change the way she is perceived not only by fans and commentators, but by another more important group: her professional peers.

Owning that mental edge — knowing opponents fear you — is a part of establishing tennis dominance. Paula Badosa is obviously playing for a specific tournament championship and short-term tennis riches in Melbourne. Yet, in ways other players aren’t, she is playing for long-term leverage and confidence, relative to the rest of the WTA Tour.

It will be fascinating from a tennis betting perspective to see how this fortnight plays out for the Spaniard.

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