Teen Tauson Beats Another Top 100 Foe In Lyon

Clara Tauson (photo: Alexandre Hergott/Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon)

LYON/WASHINGTON, March 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

At age 18, Clara Tauson of Denmark is the youngest player in the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon draw. However, throughout her marvelous, breakout week in Lyon, France’s third-largest city, she has played well above her years, dominating both from the baseline and with her serve. In press, she’s shown tremendous poise mixed with a hint of laugher in her voice – and a sense of subtle humor, too.

Friday afternoon inside Halle Tony Garnier on its Central Court, the Danish wunderkind showed that her earlier wins over No. 1 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova (ranked No. 33) and No. 105 Timea Babos, after coming through two rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw, were no fluke. The 139th-ranked Tauson capitalized on her early opportunities and advanced to the semifinal round – remaining perfect in WTA main draw competition at 3-0 in 2021– with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Italy’s 81st-ranked Camila Giorgi, completed in a tidy in one hour and 10 minutes.

Tauson took advantage of three service breaks in the opening set as Giorgi was troubled with her ineffectiveness in placing her serve in play, double-faulting six times. In the second set, Tauson broke the Italian to go ahead 3-1 and immediately consolidated it with a love hold. Then, she broke Giorgi for a fifth and final time, and closed out the victory with three service aces – including a 172 kph ace – to advance against No. 7 seed Paula Badosa of Spain, who eliminated No. 4 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

The former junior World No. 1 Tauson hit six aces and won 78 percent (25 of 32) of her first serves while facing only one break point. She converted five of 14 break-point chances against Giorgi and outpointed her opponent 61-37. Tauson dropped just 11 points on her serve and also won 54 percent (31 of 57) of her return points.

“My main goal in every match is to get my first serve percentage up and the points I win behind my first serve,” Tauson said after her quarterfinal triumph. “I was very happy about that today. I think I served much better today than the other days.”

It all added up to another impressive performance in a week to remember for the Copenhagen teenager.

“I just focused on myself and tried to play my game,” said Tauson, who’s win-loss record in all competitions this year improved to 17-3. “I’ve been playing better and serving better. The more matches I play the better I get, I think. The better players I play, the better I get.

“When you play against Top 100 players all the time, you have to be focused because you never know when they can come back and play better than you. It’s been fun playing all these players.

“I have a lot of respect for [Top 100 players]. By now, I have played more and more matches against these kinds of players. So, I feel more comfortable. I don’t go scared on court. Before, I used to go scared on court all the time, just happy to play them. Now, I want to win against them. That’s changed my mentality a lot. I think I can beat these players.”

During Tauson’s virtual press conference in English (and later Danish), she told one American reporter that she does her homework – as she did in prepping for the Giorgi match.

“I’ve watched her so much on TV, so I was prepared,” she said. … “You can ask me anything; I know everything about all the scores there are right now and have been before. It’s fun for me, I like watching tennis. I like know all the players and all the results.

“You will never find me in a difficult position if you ask me anything about tennis. … My coach says I am the Wikipedia of tennis results!”

Win or lose against Badosa, it’s been a memorable tournament for Tauson to enjoy and build upon. “Of course, this has been a very good week for me so far,” she said. “My goal is to play as many WTA [tournaments] as I can. Playing regularly on the WTA would be very nice.”

Oh, and once the tournament ends for Tauson, she plans a simple treat for herself. As she quipped, “Maybe I’ll have an ice cream or something.”

Fourth match point gets it done for ‘fighting’ Badosa

Meanwhile, Badosa squandered three match points that would have closed out a straight-set victory against Mladenovic during their quarterfinal clash Friday afternoon. However, as it turned out, there was a happy ending for Badosa. It was one that left the 73rd-ranked Spaniard feeling a sense of satisfaction and relief in her Lyon debut this week.

Badosa beat the 53rd-ranked Mladenovic 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2, winning the final six games. She put away the match on her fourth match-point opportunity and was rewarded with a berth in her first WTA semifinal of the season and third of her career to go along with penultimate-round achievements in Palermo (2019) and Istanbul (2020).

En route to her fifth win of the season, Badosa saved set points at 5-4 in both the first and second sets. However, Mladenovic managed to save three match points at 6-5 in the middle set and won it after it went to a tie break. To her credit, Badosa was determined not to let this quarterfinal match slip away from her. She trailed 0-2 15-40, before turning things around in the final set to improve to 9-5 in three-set matches.

“It was so tough mentally today,” Badosa sighed during her post-match virtual interview with Tennis TourTalk. “I was a lot of emotions; it was like a rollercoaster. To be honest, it was a high level of tennis, but I had to play my best. I felt that at the beginning, I didn’t play my best. In the second set, I had three match points and the level was so, so tight. [Kiki] was playing high level.

“I didn’t know what was happening in the tie-break. I was a little bit out. Finally, in the third set, I don’t know what I did, but I kept fighting every point. I knew I had to play a high level and try to find myself, again. Kiki was playing very, very good. I’m very happy with this win, that I could turn around this match.”

Ferro last of seven Frenchwomen left in Lyon draw

In Friday evening’s featured match, No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France beat her 19-year-old countrywoman Clara Burel, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 in one hour and 34 minutes to improve her record to 5-2 and reach her first WTA tour semifinal this year. It is her best result since lifting the trophy on clay at Palermo last August.

Although the 218th-ranked French wild card Burel saved a match point while serving at 3-5 in the third set, Ferro won on her next opportunity, thanks to an error off Burel’s forehand.

It was the fourth time Burel surrendered her serve in the final set as the 46th-ranked Ferro won four of the last six games of their quarterfinal tussle despite being broken twice as her experience began to show. Ferro outpointed Burel 84-70.

The quarterfinal victory will enable the 23-year-old Belgium-born Ferro to break into the Top 40 for the first time in her career when the WTA rankings are updated Monday.

“In the second and third sets, I was able to focus on my game instead of on my emotions,” said Ferro, asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe the keys to her win. “I think my attitude was great. In the beginning it was tough, but then I saw how I could hit winners against [Clara] and have a better vision of the situation.”

Going into the weekend, Ferro is the last remaining Frenchwoman of the seven who began play in the main draw on Monday. When Tennis TourTalk asked Ferro if she was surprised, her response was: “I don’t know if it’s a surprise but for me it’s something positive. I hope I can go to the final.”

Golubic reaches first WTA semifinal since 2019

Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic reached her first WTA tour-level semifinal since September 2019 with her 6-3, 7-6 (0) victory over Belgium’s Greet Minnen. During the one hour and 40-minute match, the last of Friday’s four quarterfinals, the No. 130 Golubic from Zürich saved two of the four break points she faced while breaking the 113th-ranked Minnen’s serve four times. She won 68 percent (40 of 59) of her service points and a healthy 48 percent (40 of 84) of her return points. Golubic, who earned a berth in the main draw by winning two qualifying matches, outpointed her opponent 80-63 to advance against Ferro.

Golubic is 15-2 on hard courts this year and 18-3 in all competitions. Last month, she lost an ITF final in Fujairah, U.A.E, to fellow Lyon semifinalist Tauson. In three ITF competitions this year, she’s won a title and reached a final and a semifinal. Importantly, those tournaments gave her some much-needed confidence. Lyon represents her second foray into tour-level competition this season. Previously, Golubic lost in the second round of the qualifying draw for the Australian Open, playing “rusty a little bit” as she put it during her post-match virtual conversation with Tennis TourTalk.

“Obviously, I was very disappointed not to qualify because I missed out on some great tournaments in Australia,” she said. “So, I tried to be as positive as I could and play in tournaments I could play in. …

“I love to play on grass but I grew up playing all summer on clay,” said Golubic explaining for Tennis TourTalk her preference in surfaces. “However, I love to play on indoor hard courts. At the beginning of the year, I’m not going to play on other surfaces because of how the [WTA] calendar is. I’m really happy to be happy to play indoor tournaments. I’ve played a couple and it’s a cool thing.”

The Swiss No. 4 Golubic has one career WTA title (at Gstaad in 2016) to her credit and her one-fisted backhand is reminiscent of a much more well-known Swiss player, Roger Federer. When Golubic was asked by a reporter if she had ever met the Swiss maestro, she chuckled. “Yes, I actually have met Roger. Now, when we see each other, we talk a little bit. He’s such an easy-going guy,” Golubic said.

“It’s like, when you meet him the very first time, you’re kind of like nervous. But he’s so sympathetic and so friendly. It’s always nice to see him.”

What they’re saying

Clara Tauson on her confidence-building week in Lyon: “I’ve been confident the whole week. I just think the further you go in a tournament, the more you believe in yourself, especially coming from the quallies and playing against these kinds of players. I think I’m just playing this as another tournament as I play normally. I don’t try to make this too big in my head because I’m just trying to focus on my game and having fun. This week has been good so far.”

More Clara: “I love having a crowd. It’s nice having people watch you. I’ve played many good matches in front of a crowd. I’m just adapting to the circumstances. I’m not trying to think about who’s in the crowd. [This week] it’s mostly players. It’s funny watching outside on the stands and you see someone like [Kiki] Mladenovic watching you. I’ve never really experienced that before.”