WATCH: Badosa navigated a tricky second set to dispatch Martincova in just over 90 minutes.

“This court, these people,” Paula Badosa marveled before an enthusiastic Stadium 1 crowd. “I have goosebumps!”

The defending champion was back home at the BNP Paribas Open. Less than six months since winning the biggest title of her career, Badosa made a winning return to the California desert, posting a 6-2, 7-6 (4) win over Tereza Martincova.

On top of the quick turnaround for a player in the midst of a meteoric rise, Badosa—who rose to a career-high ranking of No. 4 just a few weeks ago—had to open against a player she’d never beaten in three previous meetings.

“I’d never won a set,” she added, parroting on-court announcer Andrew Krasny, “and we last played a year ago.”

That last match came on hard courts in the fall of 2020, shortly after Badosa made her first charge towards the top of the game and reached the second week of Roland Garros. Martincova, who herself is rising fast up the WTA rankings—going from outside the Top 100 to a Top 40 debut in under 12 months—showed why she can be such a tough opponent on Saturday, absorbing her pace and playing indefatigable defense after finding her range in the second set.

Badosa has been in uncertain form since starting the season with a title at the Sydney International: a maiden run to the Australian Open fourth round ended fairly perfunctorily to Madison Keys and she won only one match in the Middle East swing.

Accenting her visor with a blue-yellow Ukrainian ribbon and the phrase “No War” emblazoned on her visor, she shook off missed opportunities to serve out the match after a long ninth game and went on to win the longest rally of the match to earn match points, roaring with delight when she clinched the match on a deft volley two points later.


I have to be honest: coming here as the defending champ is never easy. I was nervous, and I really wanted to do well here. Paula Badosa

“I have to be honest: coming here as the defending champ is never easy. I was nervous, and I really wanted to do well here.”

From exhibitions to mural unveilings, it was a long wait for Badosa between touching down at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and finally playing her first match. A first-round bye delayed proceedings even further—not to mention an epic comeback from Rafael Nadal on court earlier.

Badosa broke concentration only to congratulate her illustrious compatriot as he exited Stadium court, and the relief was palpable once she’d gotten over the finish line after an hour and 35 minutes.

Where some shrink in the shadow of their greatest triumphs, Badosa only grew stronger at the thought of returning to the stage on which she played the 2021 season’s best match.

“When I saw the court I was playing, I got extra motivated, and I knew I wanted to do very well here. I think I really went for it, but it was quite a tough match.”

She may not have reached the heights required to survive fellow former champion Victoria Azarenka, but Badosa doesn’t need that level of brilliance so early in the event; 20 winners and three breaks of serve were more than enough to book a third-round clash with childhood friend Sara Sorribes Tormo.

“Of course, I have pressure, but I think mentally, I was very focused today and I really did it very well in the important moments.”

Barring an emotional letdown, Badosa sounds ready for even bigger challenges as the tournament unfolds, inspired by the purple mountains that first bore witness to her majesty.