Azarenka staves off Ostapenko challenge, returns to Indian Wells final

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka pulled off a stirring comeback victory within the BNP Paribas Open semifinals on Friday night time, as the previous World No.1 from Belarus defeated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

No.27 seed Azarenka, who gained the title in Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016, charged again from a set and a break down to assert a hard-fought 2-hour and 20-minute win over No.24 seed Ostapenko.

Stat nook: Azarenka had gained their lone prior assembly in two shut units, which got here within the first spherical of 2019 Roland Garros, two years after Ostapenko surprised the tennis world by profitable that Grand Slam title in Paris.

The victory this time round was much more sophisticated for Azarenka, as Ostapenko had an preliminary 6-3, 2-0 lead. However the Belarusian steered her approach again from that deficit to place herself a win away from her third Indian Wells title, following her triumphs in 2012 (beating Maria Sharapova within the closing) and 2016 (defeating Serena Williams within the closing).

Ostapenko had extra break factors within the tilt, however solely transformed 4 of her 13, whereas Azarenka was a sturdier 5-for-8. Each gamers tried to assault on second-serve returns to regulate proceedings, and Azarenka was extra profitable, profitable 60 % of these factors to Ostapenko’s 51 % success charge, serving to the two-time champion eke out the win.

The come-from-behind win over Ostapenko is Azarenka’s thirty third match-win at Indian Wells all through her storied profession. Solely two ladies have gained extra matches total at this event, Lindsay Davenport (47) and Maria Sharapova (38). 

Azarenka is now a win away from changing into the primary lady to win the Indian Wells title 3 times. Together with herself, Davenport, and Sharapova, the opposite two-time champions are Martina Navratilova, Mary Joe Fernandez, Stefanie Graf, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, and Daniela Hantuchova.

Story of the match: The early phases of the conflict belonged to Ostapenko, who jumped out to an early 3-0 lead behind blistering groundstrokes off each wings. Azarenka pulled again on serve at 3-2, however Ostapenko instantly reclaimed the lead, breaking at love for 4-2. Ostapenko went on to win the primary set, behind 15 winners to Azarenka’s 4.

Nonetheless, regardless of falling behind an early break, Azarenka’s recreation clicked into gear within the second set, with elevated aggression and the flexibility to attract errors from the Ostapenko forehand. Imposing returns got here into play as Azarenka grabbed a fourth straight recreation when breaking for 4-2, and she or he saved two break factors within the subsequent recreation as she battled by means of the remainder of the set.

A carefully contested decider would settle affairs. An alternate of breaks led to parity at 3-3, although Azarenka continued to step into the courtroom and put stress on the Ostapenko serves. Ostapenko was capable of fend off two break factors at 3-3, however succumbed at 5-5, ceding the break and giving Azarenka the chance to serve for the match.

At 6-5, Ostapenko went for broke, mixing a deft lob in along with her groundstroke missiles as she held three break factors to ship the match right into a tiebreak. However Azarenka saved a few of her greatest serving for the very finish, blasting her approach out of hassle, and ultimately changing her first match level to succeed in a 3rd Indian Wells closing.

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