PARIS, France - After beating former French Open finalist Sloane Stephens in the second round, Spain's Paula Badosa picked up a victory over a former winner on Saturday in Paris to keep her deepest-ever run at a Grand Slam going.
With a 6-4, 6-3 win over 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, the 22-year-old Spaniard books a place in the fourth round of a major for the first time in her career, at the very venue where she lifted the junior trophy in 2015.
Having never before contested a main-draw match in Paris - the only Grand Slam where she had yet to - and also having lost in the first qualifying round in her previous trip to Roland Garros last year, the World No.87 not only overcame the power tennis of the Latvian by the end of one hour and 22 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu, but cool and rainy conditions to reach the round of 16.
"When I was in juniors, there were a lot of expectations in my country, saying I need to be the next [Maria] Sharapova... and I wasn't ready for that," an honest Badosa revealed of her five-year journey since she was the girls' champion in Paris.
"I had a very bad two, three years, but then I stopped myself and I tried to start from zero. I worked hard every day and I tried to have stability outside of tennis in terms of being happy. I'm very happy that now I can play my game, try to enjoy and have fun.
"Mentally, I had to do a lot of work to not listen to all the things and these expectations on me. I try to listen to my team every day, not look to forward, and go day-by-day now.
"I think I've improved a lot mentally and physically. I work very hard and I think my tennis now is much better than a year ago. I'm playing more aggressive, more confident and I think I did a good step forward with that. Now, I believe more that I can win these matches, and I think that's the big change and the key."
From 2-0 down early on, Badosa won four straight games to wrestle control of the opening set, and held onto that advantage for much of the duration of the match thanks in part to a sparkling stat line of 15 winners to just 10 unforced errors.
Success on serve was also the hallmark for the Spaniard in victory, as she served seven aces and saved six of the eight break points she faced.
Conversely, Ostapenko racked up 10 double faults and 43 unforced errors in the contest, and though the Latvian made a late push to keep her campaign alive, could not string together a complete comeback.
Trailing 4-1 in the second set, the current World No.43 won back-to-back games and had a break point to level at 4-4, but Badosa dug in and won the final two multi-deuce games to secure the victory.
"We know each other and I know she plays like she wants to play only two balls every point. She wants to be very aggressive and doesn't give you a lot of rhythm," Badosa assessed of her former peer in the juniors.
"I knew that I had to run every point, be very consistent, be there, try to fight every point and be smart. That's what I did and I think I played quite good. I'm quite happy with my result today."
In a second round of 16 match that will guarantee an unseeded quarterfinalist, Badosa will face US Open doubles champion Laura Siegemund, who came from a set down to upset No.13 seed Petra Martic earlier on Saturday.
"The thing of tennis is you play today against Ostapenko and two days from now, you play against a completely different player," Badosa assessed.
"I think that's very challenging. She's very tough, she plays very good on clay and she fights every point. I will try to do the same and the best one will win.
"It's very, very special [to be here]. I was a little bit emotional [after the match] because it was very hard to reach this.
"I've never lost my faith and I knew that one day this would come, but I had to fight a lot. I'm happy that finally it was possible."