The Australian Open buildup could not have been more different from last year's tournament for Spaniard Paula Badosa as the world number six arrives in Melbourne brimming with confidence having won a WTA 500 title on Saturday.
The 24-year-old was ranked 70th when she exited Melbourne Park in 2021 following a first-round defeat after becoming the only Australian Open player to test positive for COVID-19 in the leadup to the Grand Slam.
Badosa was shifted to a separate "health hotel" where COVID-19 cases were isolated and complained bitterly about the conditions during her 21-day quarantine, calling it the "worst experience" of her career.
Twelve months later, she is at a career-high ranking and will kick off her Grand Slam campaign in Monday's final night match at the Margaret Court Arena showcourt against local hope Ajla Tomljanovic.
Once considered a player more suited to clay courts, Badosa won her second hardcourt crown and third overall on Saturday when she beat French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in Sydney.
"It gives me a lot of confidence (for Australian Open), especially with the level I have played this week," Badosa told reporters in Sydney.
"Of course, tired. I play Monday. I will have to fly tonight, so let's see how I recover. But I will try to give my best there. I'm playing in a high level. Let's see. I'm looking forward to it."
The Spaniard has set herself lofty goals for 2022 - perform better at majors.
"I am giving 100% in training because my goal is to reach the final rounds in the big tournaments and in the Grand Slams," she said last month.
"You are in the spotlight. Now everyone wants to beat you. Opponents play with less pressure against you and you play with the obligation to win.
"When you are 70th in the world you fight to be at the top, and when you are at the top you fight to stay there. You set yourself a constant challenge. But that's the beauty of this sport."
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