Paula Badosa couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the draw at the Adelaide International. Just two-and-a-half months after besting former No.1 Victoria Azarenka in a three-hour final to win her first WTA 1000 title at Indian Wells, the two were now going to face off again in their first matches of the 2022 season.
"To be honest, when I saw it yesterday, I thought it was a joke," Badosa told WTA Insider. "I was watching the draw for 10 minutes. I didn't talk to anyone, I was just staring at it. I was like, 'OK, Paula, it's not going to change even if you sit here for one hour, so stop watching it.'"
The Indian Wells final, which the World No.8 won 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2), left a lasting impression on both players. Coming out of their first career meeting, Badosa and Azarenka were effusive in their respect for the other's effort and quality. The two joked about an immediate rematch and their competitive connection forged a camaraderie.
Even before the draw dropped in Adelaide, Badosa and Azarenka signed in to play doubles together.
"The funniest part is that I had practiced today with her," Badosa said. "So yesterday after the draw came out, we were like, 'What do we do?' And we were like, 'It's OK for us. We can practice. I learn from you, she learns from me.' The match is a thing and why not, we can practice the day before. So that's what we did."
Setting aside her marquee opening match, which is scheduled for Tuesday, the 24-year-old Spaniard spoke to WTA Insider about her approach to the 2022 season and how she's dealing with the new pressures and responsibilities that come with her ascension into the tour's elite.
WTA Insider: How was your offseason?
Badosa: Well, I didn't have that many days. I had one week, maybe 10 days, but I tried to disconnect a lot and I think I did it. Ten days for me was enough. On Day 7 I already wanted to play tennis.
The Maldives were amazing. To be there, to eat whatever I want and do nothing, I enjoyed it. I love to be near the beach. I grew up next to it, so that was amazing for me. I had to do gym every day as well because I didn't have that much time to prepare for the next season, so at least I was doing a little bit of workout. But the rest of the day I disconnected.
WTA Insider: After such a great 2021 season and finishing strong, how are you feeling going into the 2022 season?
Badosa: It's a different feeling. I'm really, really motivated this year. I really want to do big things and I think I worked very hard in this pre-season thinking about only that. And of course, I had an amazing season last year, but you always want more and to do it better, to be honest. So that's a little bit my goal this year.
WTA Insider: Any changes to your team since Guadalajara?
Badosa: Same team. I don't really like changes, to be honest. When I have changes it's because I don't have any other option. But if I can, I don't like them because I think tennis is already very tough and to have changes, mentally it's never easy.
WTA Insider: You've been practicing this week with a bunch of different players, some of whom you used to play the ITF Circuit with. Do you think having come up through the lower levels helps to strengthen those bonds?
Badosa: I was practicing yesterday with Leylah and I was remembering two years ago, we were both in qualies. Maybe she was 200 in the world and I was 120. And now we're seeing each other and I'm Top 10 and she's 20 in the world and playing so good. It's so nice to see all these players, Rybakina as well, that we're growing and we have a good relationship. Nothing changes and that's important.
WTA Insider: The pressures can change as the results come and rankings go up. How do you ensure that nothing changes between you?
Badosa: I think to do that, it's to make things normal. Sometimes it looks so complicated and people change.
But I think you have to be normal because one day you're here and the next day you can be outside the Top 100 because the level is very, very high. I think you have to stay humble and work hard because one day you're up and the next day you can be down.
WTA Insider: You're now Top 10, Indian Wells champion. Is it difficult to approach things "normally," as you say?
Badosa: I'm approaching it better. I think even one week ago, I wasn't even conscious of what happened because it was very crazy. In Spain as well, a lot of things were very intense.
But now when I arrived here, I was with my coach and I was telling him, 'Wow, I'm No.8 in the world, huh?' I won Indian Wells and I did a good year. Now I'm trying to approach it a little bit better. So yeah, I think sometimes you need some time and when it's the first time you need a little bit more time.
But of course, as you can see, the season is starting already tough and it's going to be very tough. So that's why it's very important to stay humble and to work a lot.
WTA Insider: You mentioned things being intense in Spain after the season ended. How do you approach being in the spotlight more? Do you enjoy it?
Badosa: To be honest, I don't really like it because I grew up in a small town and my goal was to be the best I can as a tennis player. But of course, when you are a good tennis player, you have these off-court things. I have to start to get used to it.
I think the things that I enjoy more were the photo shoots. I've been a little bit used to that because my parents were in the fashion industry. Some days if I'm not too tired I enjoy it a little bit. And I learned it's another world, so I like learning new things.
Sometimes I get stressed because it's something that I'm not used to because I just want to play tennis. I don't want the other things. But of course, I know it's part of my job and I'm happy with that because that means that I'm doing very good at my job. So I'm trying slowly to get used to it. I have an amazing team that helps me to get through that.