The womenÈs Indian Wells title will be fought out by two Russians in what is a surprising final round in the Californian desert.
. I was in the final nine years ago, so it is nice to be here again
Svertlana Kuznetsova, 31, is continuing to surprise by recapturing the sort of form that saw her lift two grand slam titles, the second eight years ago, to reach the championship round for the first time since 2007 and 2008.
She will face Elena Vesnina, 30, who is better known for her doubles play but is now carving a name for herself in the singles rankings making her way into a WTA Mandatory EventÈ for the first time. Not bad for a player who lost in te first round of qualifying 12 months ago!
Kuznetsova squeezed past the in-form player from the Czech Republic, Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5) 7-6(2) while Vesnina proved much too powerful for FranceÈs Kristina Mladenovic, routing her 6-3 6-4.
Kuznetsova admitted it had been close. "I tried my best to fight every point," she said "Karolina is one of the best players this year. She played so well and I had to put in a performance. I was in the final nine years ago, so it is nice to be here again."
Vesnina, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year who has reached a career high of 15th in the world said important doubles wins – including a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics – had helped her big-match composure.
"It’s not easy to hold your nerve," she said. "But I’m really happy the way I handled it. I was very focused. I was not thinking about the final. I was just thinking particularly about every single game, every single shot."
"I really think she was just too good for me today," Mladenovic admitted she was 5-0 and 5-1 down in each set respectively. "I felt like I had to do kind of crazy points to win. She didn’t really allow me to put my game on tonight."