Our keys to the final four players

We’re right down to the ultimate 4 in Indian Wells. Victoria Azarenka, who has strung collectively some classic tennis within the desert, takes on Jelena Ostapenko, whereas Ons Jabeur, coming off a win that may catapult her into the Prime 10 come Monday, squares off towards Paula Badosa.

Every participant has a compelling purpose she will be able to stroll out of the ultimate WTA 1000 occasion of the 12 months with a title. But it surely’s not going to be straightforward. 

“By way of game-wise, circumstances are fairly tough right here,” Azarenka stated. “It is about adjustment lots and navigating by means of two weeks. It is a two-week occasion, so it additionally takes plenty of power plenty of focus out of you.”

Between tough circumstances and even stiffer competitors, how will this last 4 play out? We check out the keys for every of the remaining gamers.  

No.24 Jelena Ostapenko vs. No.27 Victoria Azarenka

Key for Ostapenko: Keep aggressive and sustain the first-serve share 

From week to week – and certainly match to match, if not sport to sport – Ostapenko’s profession has been a rollercoaster trip. However two issues which have remained fixed are her unwavering self-belief and her absolute dedication to all-out energy tennis. The win over No.2 seed Iga Swiatek within the third spherical prolonged her streak of scoring a minimum of one Prime 10 victory yearly since 2015, when she debuted at tour stage (and took her total whole to 14). After that match, in addition to the follow-up quarterfinal defeat of Shelby Rogers, Ostapenko said the important thing to profitable was that she had stayed aggressive – as if doing in any other case has ever occurred to her.

“If I play effectively, I am a harmful participant and I can, I feel, beat anybody,” Jelena Ostapenko stated after upsetting Swiatek. 

Watching the Latvian Ostapenko in full movement, it is laborious to not agree together with her. Huge hitting is commonplace on the WTA Tour, however Ostapenko takes it to extremes. No angle is just too not possible for her to aim; no ball too awkward to take at full blast. Broadening her repertoire through the years to incorporate the dropshot has merely expanded the methods through which she will be able to enhance her beloved winner tally. Together together with her charisma, this may make for electrical leisure.

And not too long ago, it is also made for her most constant run of outcomes since 2017, the 12 months she received Roland Garros. Ostapenko’s run in Indian Wells has meant she has scored greater than 30 WTA main-draw wins in a single season for the primary time since. In June, she collected her largest title since her French Open fairytale in Eastbourne. And right here, she’s landed in her largest semifinal since Wimbledon 2018.

Ostapenko misplaced her solely earlier assembly with Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 7-6(4) within the first spherical of Roland Garros 2019, however she’s by no means been one to be deterred by a shedding head-to-head. For all that Ostapenko can management the match off the bottom, although, she is going to have to be cautious of her serve. Although the double-faulting points which have plagued her prior to now appear to have been eradicated, her second serve stays a weak point {that a} famend returner equivalent to Azarenka can feast on.

However Ostapenko can negate that drawback together with her personal ferocious return, which she is going to fortunately blitz into the corners each time potential. If that is clicking and she or he retains her first-serve share excessive, Ostapenko ought to have a stable basis to dominate baseline exchanges. — Alex Macpherson

Key for Azarenka: Care for her facet of the courtroom

Victoria Azarenka debuted as an expert at a $10,000 ITF occasion in Israel – she was 14 years previous.

Eighteen years later, on the age of 32, she’s nonetheless swinging, nonetheless enjoying significant matches. And as she has confirmed at Indian Wells, spectacular matches as effectively. 

The No.27-seeded Azarenka defeated Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-2 and has but to drop a set. Friday, she meets No.24 Jelena Ostapenko, who was a three-set winner over Shelby Rogers. Azarenka received their solely assembly, within the first spherical of the 2019 French Open.

Her key? Effectivity. 

“I feel the courtroom protection and taking possibly much less photographs to win the purpose, that is one thing that’s vital for me to enhance,” she stated after the semifinals.  “I feel on the baseline, counterattacking, having excessive depth, that is one thing that labored rather well for me. I am in search of issues that I can implement that may make it a bit simpler for me.” 

Azarenka has received 21 titles – two of them at Indian Wells, in 2012 and 2016. She loves the desert air; solely three ladies have received greater than her 32 matches right here, and their names are Davenport, Sharapova and Wozniacki.

All she’s carried out this 12 months at Indian Wells is take out fellow two-time main winner Petra Kvitova (6-2, 6-2), then cooled off the unseeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who had scored back-to-back upsets over US Open champion Emma Raducanu and Simona Halep.

Azarenka has all the time been an entire participant, however this 12 months she’s been attempting so as to add a brand new wrinkle – aggressiveness. Up to now, it’s a piece in progress, however this week it’s working.

In her post-match press convention, Azarenka was requested about Ostapenko’s aggressive play. Her reply underlined the knowledge Azarenka has accrued over her lengthy profession.

“I don’t essentially suppose any in another way,” Azarenka stated. “It’s sort of the identical mindset, taking good care of your facet of the courtroom and never letting the opposite, your opponent, management the end result. I feel that doesn’t essentially change my strategy. It could change some rallies, some photographs, however strategy positively not.” — Greg Garber

No. 12 Ons Jabeur vs. No. 21 Paula Badosa

Key for Jabeur: No nerves, slam again second serves

With a spot within the Prime 10 and a spot on the Akron WTA Finals in her sights, Ons Jabeur began Indian Wells below a little bit of self-imposed strain.

“I am attempting so laborious to calm myself down and deal with all this stress as a result of I wish to be a Grand Slam champion,” Jabeur stated on Thursday. “If I wish to try this, then I have to undergo this. Hopefully I will undergo this with out having a coronary heart assault,” she stated with a smile.

Jabeur can breathe simpler: a Prime 10 debut has been secured in subsequent week’s rankings. She can be as much as No.8 within the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, that means a visit to Guadalajara continues to be an enormous risk.

Trying again on the previous few months, the stress might need been unwarranted. Jabeur has gone deep in lots of occasions this summer season: a historic first title in Birmingham, a second Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, one other last in Chicago. She’s received 19 of her final 25 matches.

Any doubts about Jabeur’s nerves prior to now have been absolutely obliterated. “Lastly, with maturity and sufficient expertise, I’m accepting this type of strain is a privilege, it is a pleasure to have it,” she stated.

It definitely helps alleviate the strain when your type is at its peak. After a tricky opening match towards fellow artful participant Anastasija Sevastova right here within the desert, Jabeur received her subsequent three matches in straight units.

Jabeur has been helped by stable serving and returning of second serves: in her final three matches, she has received over half of the factors returning her opponent’s second supply (together with 71 % towards Danielle Collins), whereas additionally by no means ceding greater than 40 % of her personal second-service factors.

That ought to turn out to be useful towards Paula Badosa within the semifinals: the Spaniard’s highly effective sport is to not be trifled with, however Badosa solely received 47 % of her second-service factors mixed in her straight-set wins over main champions Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber within the final two rounds. Jabeur ought to proceed to assault these second serves.

However win or lose, Jabeur is primed for an extremely excessive year-end end within the rankings and a run on the Grand Slam title she needs in 2022. Why be pressured? — Jason Juzwiak

Key for Badosa: Let’s get bodily

Paula Badosa turned the primary Spanish girl since 2003 to advance to the semifinals in Indian Wells after scoring back-to-back wins over main champs. The 23-year-old Spaniard began her desert marketing campaign with a straight-set win over Coco Gauff and is into Friday’s semifinals after wins over Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber. She didn’t drop a set towards these three opponents. 

Match Report: Badosa bests Kerber to make Indian Wells semis, faces good good friend Jabeur

Briefly, Paula Badosa has seemed very sharp in her Indian Wells debut. And if historical past is any indicator, she goes to trigger suits for Jabeur. 

As Gauff, Krejcikova, Kerber, and Dayana Yastremska have discovered over this fortnight, hitting by means of Badosa is a tricky job. After splitting with coach Javier Marti earlier than the US Open and linking up with childhood coach Jorge Garcia, Badosa has performed tactically sound tennis all week to make her first semifinal since profitable her first title in Belgrade. Although she is nursing a shoulder damage that derailed her summer season season, Badosa performed bodily, sensible tennis to attenuate her errors whereas holding the baseline strain on her opponents.

The outcome has been 20 breaks of serve over 4 matches. Having dropped only one set all match, Badosa broke Krejcikova 6 occasions, Kerber and Yastremska 5 occasions every, and Gauff 4 occasions. By comparability, Badosa has been damaged simply 9 occasions. 

Badosa and Jabeur have performed twice on tour, each on laborious courts, and each occasions it got here right down to the wire. Badosa received their first assembly on the 2015 US Open, profitable 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 within the first spherical of qualifying. Jabeur narrowly received out earlier this 12 months in Miami, profitable 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 in over two-and-a-half hours.

The important thing for Badosa will probably be to maintain the rallies bodily and shrink the courtroom on Jabeur. Breaking down the Jabeur sport requires an efficient backhand down the road, and Badosa has by no means been shy about pulling the set off on that rally-breaking shot. — Courtney Nguyen

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