Two of the WTA’s brightest lights — American Amanda Anisimova and Spaniard Paula Badosa — will meet in the third round of the Australian Open, both hungry for a return to form after sitting out most of the 2023 season.

While they had very different reasons for missing most of last year, Anisimova and Badosa have more than a few things in common.

Looking back on 2023

Citing burnout amid the relentless stresses of the tour, Anisimova took dramatic action to prioritize her mental health by stepping away from the sport in May 2023.

In contrast, Badosa’s 2023 season started ominously with an abductor injury. Whether it was the so-called Netflix curse or just a case of bad luck, a few months later, she pulled out of the French Open with a stress fracture in her lower back.

While Badosa spent the bulk of 2023 resting and rehabilitating her injury, and eager to get back on court, Anisimova put down her tennis racquet on her own accord – taking a break to replenish her psychological reserves.

Anisimova took to art as a creative outlet to deal with burnout, mounting a gallery show and donating a portion of her painting sales to support causes close to her heart – mental health, child abuse, and hunger. She also continued work toward a business degree and minor in psychology. With her return to tennis, Anisimova says she plans to complete her studies by taking remote courses through Indiana University.

“Finding things that I like outside of tennis was a huge thing for me. I’m not just a tennis player, I enjoy doing other things,” said Anisimova, during an on-court interview after her first-round 6-3, 6-4 upset over 13th seed Liudmila Samsonova.

Early Australian Open wins

In the second round of this year’s Australian Open, Anisimova clinically dispatched Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-3, showing spectators why she was once considered one of the sport’s most promising teen players.

Badosa has also shown flashes of brilliance during straight-set wins over Taylor Townsend and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first and second rounds, respectively.

In press, when asked about her wins, Badosa was quick to say she didn’t expect to see positive results so quickly but seemed cautiously optimistic about whether her form would continue.

“I didn’t expect to be playing this well this early, after seven months break. I’m happy. Let’s see how my body reacts tomorrow,” said Badosa. “Mentally I’m working really hard.”

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In 2021, Badosa rocketed into the top ten when she beat a host of elite players and lifted the trophy at Indian Wells. She eventually reached a career-high ranking of world No. 2.

Anisimova reached a career-high ranking of No. 21 in 2019 and seemed well on her way to fulfilling her potential before the pandemic derailed her momentum.

Beyond their absences in 2023, Badosa and Anisimova share similar game styles. Badosa is an aggressive baseliner with heavy groundstrokes and one of the best serves on the WTA tour. She combines those weapons with defensive skills, soft hands, and shot versatility you would expect from the Roland Garros junior champion.  Anisimova is widely regarded as one of the game’s purest ball strikers and possesses one of the best backhands on tour.

They’ve both had past success at the Australian Open – Badosa reached the fourth round in 2022, and Anisimova reached the fourth round in 2019 and 2022. Both will look to draw on those positive memories going into this third-round encounter, which will be their first meeting.

Regardless of who comes out on top, tennis is the real winner with both of these talented players back in the game.

Main Photo Credit: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

The post Amanda Anisimova vs. Paula Badosa: Showdown on the Comeback Trail appeared first on Last Word On Tennis.

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.