Paula Badosa’s latest injury heartbreak leaves star at crossroads – and risking rankings slump

Paula Badosa faced fresh injury heartbreak in Stuttgart

Paula Badosa’s heartbreaking retirement in Stuttgart was a scene that has sadly become all too familiar.

The Spaniard – who had beaten Diana Shnaider in straight sets in round one – was competing incredibly well against world No 2 and best friend Aryna Sabalenka, only for injury issues to rear their ugly head.

Understandably devastated as she was forced to retire at 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-3 down, Badosa could have easily won the match had she taken a handful of set points in the opener.

But she now faces another spell on the sidelines and, as injury struggles continue to haunt her, it is hard to see what comes next for a player of such great talent.

Ongoing struggles

It is easy to forget that we saw Badosa at the peak of her powers just two years ago.

The Spanish star ended 2021 by claiming the biggest title of her career at the delayed Indian Wells, stunning former champion Victoria Azarenka in a thrilling final.

A strong start to 2022 saw her capture her third career title in Sydney and it was not long afterwards she moved to a high of second in the WTA Rankings.

But things started to head south throughout that season, unable to recapture the form that took her to those Indian Wells and Sydney victories.

Aryna Sabalenka and Paula Badosa hug after the Spaniard’s retirement

Badosa dropped to end the year at 13th in the WTA Rankings, starting a slow descent down the tennis pecking order that has been difficult to watch.

At the start of 2023, an abductor injury sustained in Adelaide saw her withdraw from the Australian Open and, as the season went on, her back issues emerged.

Badosa withdrew from the French Open despite an encouraging clay season and, after retiring in the second round of Wimbledon, did not play at all for the rest of the year.

It has been more of the same for the Spaniard in 2024, holding a 5-8 record for the season so far –  retiring injured in three of those defeats.

What next as rankings trouble looms

Questions now linger about what Badosa does next to try and salvage her career.

A few weeks ago she declared she was again fit and healthy, ready to play; now, another long layoff seems a distinct possibility.

Her ranking could also hinder her ambitions sooner rather than later.

Currently 93rd in the world, Badosa is currently projected to drop to 99th next week and could be out of the top 100 by next Monday if results go against her.

Even if she can stay inside that cutoff next week, it seems all but guaranteed she will slip further very soon; she has fourth-round points to defend in Madrid, and quarter-final points coming off in Rome.

Badosa may be forced to rely on wildcards into WTA 1000 events and Grand Slams if and when her ranking does fall, and may also face the reality of playing in qualifying draws – or potentially playing at ITF level.

It has been difficult enough to watch her recently without knowing what it would be like to see her struggle for fitness a level down from where she is accustomed to, and from the level we know she can produce.

Ultimately, it is hard to know exactly what awaits her at this crucial career crossroads.

If she can regain fitness permanently and work her way up the rankings, at 26 years of age she could easily have the best part of a decade left to achieve significant success.

Sadly, that seems an incredibly distant possibility – but one that she, and many of us, will be clinging onto.

Read More: Paula Badosa’s gushing praise for Aryna Sabalenka after emotional match in Miami