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Belief carries Clara Tauson to major breakthrough, Kontaveit stunner at Australian Open
A former junior champion, the Danish teenager derailed her higher-ranked opposition thanks to a fearless performance that puts her in sight of the second week.
Published Jan 20, 2022
WATCH: Tauson won her second WTA title of 2021 in Luxembourg, foreshadowing her major breakthrough in Melbourne.
Clara Tauson came to Margaret Court Arena with a plan. She did not stick to it.
“I felt really good out there, so I went for everything in my shots,” she explained with a giggle. “My weapons were obviously working very well.”
The Danish teenager brought out the heavy artillery to outgun one of the game’s best ballstrikers in Anett Kontaveit, stunning the No. 6 seed, 6-2, 6-4, hitting 20 winners and five aces.
“When you play really good, you don't feel like you're playing amazing,” she mused in post-match press, “but everything is just going how you want it. In my mind that's just how I want to play every time.”
Tauson lifted the junior Australian Open trophy in 2018, and was a name reverently whispered among tennis insiders throughout 2021 as she captured a pair of small-but-mighty WTA titles in Lyon and Luxembourg.
“Doing it in a Slam is a really great feeling. It's just a lot of hard work that I've put into it. That it's here already in one of the first tournaments of the year is a really nice feeling.”
A student of the game—and a self-described “Wikipedia of tennis”—the 19-year-old twice had chances to score a major upset last season, playing Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty tough at Roland Garros and the US Open, respectively.
Last year I don't think I really believed that I could beat those players. Now right before the match [my coach] told me, ‘You have to believe you can win. We'll see what the result says, but you have to believe it.’” Clara Tauson
What made the difference this time? A healthy dose of determination.
“I had a little talk with my coach right before the match where we talked about I have to go in believing I could win this match. Last year I don't think I really believed that I could beat those players. Now right before the match he told me, ‘You have to believe you can win. We'll see what the result says, but you have to believe it.’”
Tauson indeed never wavered, even as a rattled Kontaveit attempted to regain her footing in the second set. From 2-4 down, she only lost five more points.
“Even in some of the difficult moments, I believed that I could win. I think that was what happened today, what was the difference from last year.”
Up to a career-high ranking of No. 39 at the start of the fortnight, Tauson can rise even higher if she gets past 2019 semifinalist Danielle Collins, who dispatched Ana Konjuh, another former junior champ, earlier on Thursday.
In their last encounter, Tauson was similarly fresh off a breakthrough, having just stunned Jennifer Brady to earn her maiden major main draw win at Roland Garros 2020.
“That day I was pretty injured, but I kept on playing. I don't really have to take too much from my game in that match.
“But her game obviously I can take some things. It's been a while now. I guess she improved some things, too. I have to go home and look at her playing and just figure out with my coach how I have to play against her, just see what happens.”
Fitness shouldn’t be an issue this time around; Tauson appears in significantly better shape than last year, and is averaging 80 minutes flat across her first two matches. If there’s any plan she’ll stick to in 48 hours, it’ll be to come down from Cloud 9 as soon as possible.
“I still have some work to do. I cannot be too happy with the win today, but I am really happy.”