Indian Wells | Badosa steps closer to title defence as Kontaveit stumbles

Defending champion Paula Badosa outgunned fellow Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo to advance at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, joining Maria Sakkari, Elena Rybakina and Leylah Fernandez in the round of 16.

The bad part is that we know each other very well. Before I was hitting she already was in the spot. That was the negative part. But still I'm happy about her level. I think she's improving a lot. Really happy that I stayed there because it was very tough for me. Every point was very long. I knew I had to keep fighting and I will have my opportunity. I got that opportunity in the tiebreak. Paula Badosa

The No 4 seed, Anett Kontaveit, however, was edged out in a deciding breaker, while former Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka, the 20th seed, and Petra Kvitova, seeded 27, both lost in straight sets, and 13th-seeded Elise Mertens fell in three.

Badosa, the World No 7, endured an 82-minute marathon first set to defeat Sorribes Tormo, 7-6(4) 6-1, and keep her title defence alive, while Canada’s US Open finalist Fernandez earned her first win over American Shelby Rogers, 6-1 3-6 6-3, to close the night session on Day 6.

Seeded 5, Badosa now will face the 18th-seeded Fernandez for a place in the quarter-finals.

The Spaniard is bidding to become the first woman to defend the Indian Wells title in over 30 years, Martina Navratilova being the last to do so in 1990 and 1991.

The match against Sorribes Tormo opened with 6 consecutive breaks of serve before Badosa snapped the streak to hold to 4-3.

Four of the 5 remaining games in the opener went to deuce and Sorribes Tormo gamely saved 5 break points during that stretch, including 3 set points at 5-6 to force a tiebreak.

Badosa, who stepped up the power to fire balls into the corners, sealed the set with the aid of another heavy forehand blast that Sorribes Tormo could not control and sent wide.

“I knew I had to go a little bit more for it,” Badosa said, when asked about the tiebreak. “Sometimes it’s tough because I know Sara lives a lot with errors of the other [player].

“I didn’t want to make a lot. I knew it was very tactical. In that moment when you’re a little bit at the limit, I knew I had to go maybe a little bit more for it, especially with my forehand.

“That’s what I did in a few points. I think that’s what gave me the first set.”

With the first set in hand, Badosa romped through the second to close out the win after 2 hours.

“I think today she played very, very good in the first set,” Badosa added. “She was a very tough opponent.

“I was expecting that. She’s a fighter. Last year was amazing for her.

“The bad part is that we know each other very well. Before I was hitting she already was in the spot. That was the negative part. But still I’m happy about her level. I think she’s improving a lot.

“Really happy that I stayed there because it was very tough for me. Every point was very long. I knew I had to keep fighting and I will have my opportunity. I got that opportunity in the tiebreak.”


Leylah Fernandez needed 3 sets to get past Shelby Rogers and plays Paula Badosa next at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

© Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Badosa’s next opponent is Fernandez, the 19-year old who won the Monterrey title, and needed 3 sets to get past Rogers, winning 6-1 3-6 6-3.

The Canadian opened by dominating her service games, and she faced no break points in the first set, serving at 76.2% first serves in and winning 87.5% of her first-serve points while breaking the American 3 times.

Rogers turned the tables in the second, racing to a 3-0 lead and closing it out on her 4th set point.

Fernandez broke first and held for a 3-0 lead in the decider, which proved to be the only break of the final set, as the Canadian rolled through her service games to close out the match after 1 hour and 39 minutes.

On facing Badosa, Fernandez said: “It will be a very tough one. She’s the defending champion. She has a lot of good matches under her belt. I’m very excited to play against her.

“I’ll just try to focus on my game and see what my dad (coach) has in store for me to execute.

“When we do practice together, we always have fun. She’s a great person. It’s great to have a player like her on tour because not only is she nice off court but she’s also a great player on court.

“I can’t wait to share the court with her playing a good match.”


Elena Rybakina (R) beat bandaged Victoria Azarenka in straight sets on Monday

© Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier in the day, former major champions Azarenka and Kvitova were both ousted in the third round.

Two-time Indian Wells winner and 13th seed Azarenka fell to Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, 6-3 6-4, after errant serving saw her cough up 8 double-faults.

An in-form Rybakina produced a pristine first set, launching 4 aces without dropping a single first-serve point to claim the early momentum.

With her right shoulder heavily taped and a sleeve placed on her right arm, the two-time Australian Open champion grimaced, crouched down on the court and wept after a double-fault in the 5th game of the second set, prompting the chair umpire to approach her to ask if she needed medical attention.

Azarenka, who lost in the final last year to Badosa, apologised and continued, but Rybakina converted the critical break point in the 7th game of the second set.

“It was a tough match, but really happy that I won today,” Rybakina said afterwards. “Today my serve was really, really good. It helped me a lot.”

The Kazakh took the match in an hour and 34 minutes, winning 86% of her first-serve points to Azarenka’s 76%, and 65% of her second-serve points to Azarenka’s 40%.

The World No 20 saved the only break point she faced while converting 2 of the 8 break points she held on Azarenka’s serve.

Despite the loss, Azarenka shared some comments on Ukraine, which drew praise: “One thing that’s missing in this world is compassion…and empathy. That’s something I feel I can offer to people.

“I hope other people start to implement something like that, because we’re all human beings.

“The most important thing is to take care and help each other. That’s what life is about…The core foundation of humanity shouldn’t be lost in any conflict.

“I think the violence is never justified. I hope compassion – empathy – is something that we can grow more to avoid conflicts.”


A delighted Maria Sakkari breezed past Petra Kvitova to also advance at Indian Wells

© Harry How/Getty Images

Sakkari, the 6th seed from Greece who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and the US Open last year, fired off 5 aces in a strong service display to make light work of Kvitova, the left-handed Czech, 6-3 6-0.

“Obviously Petra is a very tough opponent, but I came [onto] the court and I was feeling it today,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference. “I think it was a very good day for me and like not a good day for her.

“I was just tactically playing the right way and serving really good, so I think that was the reason why I won that match quite easily.

“There are games that I might not serve that well. There will be a couple of games in a set that I won’t be acing every point or I won’t be making that many first serves, so then I just trust my game from the baseline that I can just out-grind the opponent.

“It’s just that I have a Plan A and a Plan B, which I think is good and that’s what got me to the top.”

Sakkari won all of her first-serve points in the first set and dropped just one in the second, as Kvitova struggled with her serve, producing 5 double-faults across the 66-minute encounter.

The two-times Wimbledon champion relinquished break point in the 8th game of the first set, and never regained her composure, as Sakkari fended off 2 breaks to close out the frame, and then ran away with the match in the second.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Czech Marketa Vondrousova knocked out Estonia’s Kontaveit, 3-7 7-5 7-6(5).

The 30th seed managed to outlast the 4th seeded Kontaveit after a 2 hour 50 minute battle, Vondrousova winning 70% of her first-serve points to the Estonian’s 58%.

Both dropped their serves 6 times in the match, 3 of which came in the deciding set.

Vondrousova, who won an Olympic silver medal for the Czech Republic in women’s singles last year, was down a break at 4-2 in the 3rd set before charging back to complete the come-back.

Looking to clinch a spot in the quarter-finals, the World No 33 will take on Veronika Kudermetova after the 21st seed moved into the 4th round when fellow Czech, Marie Bouzkova, retired with an injury to her right ankle while 4-6, 0-2, down.

The loss is a stumbling block in Kontaveit’s record over the last year during which she has propelled herself into the Top 5 and advanced to the final at 7 of her past 12 tournaments, winning 5 titles in that run.

Despite the loss, Kontaveit’s 14 match-wins so far on tour this season is second only to Iga Swiatek’s record of 16.


Viktorija Golubic edged past Jasmine Paolini in a deciding breaker on Monday

© Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images

Viktorija Golubic, the 31st seed from Switzerland, took 2 hours and 32 minutes to dispatch Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, 7-5 1-6 7-6(4), and will play Rybakina next.

Like Vondrousova, Golubic had to stage a third-set comeback and prevail in a decisive tiebreak.

Paolini was up a break 3 separate times in the final set, including chances to serve out the match at 5-4 and 6-5 but each time, though, Golubic pulled back level, without ever facing a match point in the process.

The Swiss claimed 4 of the last 5 points in the third-set breaker to grit out the win and move into the Indian Wells Round of 16 for the first time in her career.

“For sure, tough match,” Rybakina said, looking forward to another match against Golubic. “I have to focus on my serve because it’s really a big weapon for me.

“Be physically ready, be patient. Here the conditions are slow. Rallies might be longer than you expect. So just be patient and try to fight and focus for every point.”

Daria Saville put an end to Mertens’ journey in the Californian desert after the Australian pipped the Belgian 20th seed, 6-3 4-6 6-3, in a gruelling 2 hours 57 minutes, and her next opponent is Sakkari in the round of 16.

“I’m really proud of myself,” Saville said, after her win. “I had some really, really good moments, and some games where I was like, ‘What was that?’ … It was an interesting one, but I was able to be more aggressive in the third set.”

Saville gritted past Mertens to back up her victory over No 9 seed Ons Jabeur in the previous round, which was her first Top 10 win since 2018.

The second straight upset continues a superb comeback season for Saville, who peaked at World No 20 in 2017 under her maiden name Gavrilova before being beset by injuries for the past few years, eventually undergoing Achilles surgery 12 months ago.

Saville won her only previous meeting against Sakkari at a Challenger event in San Antonio, Texas back in 2016 when she fought back from a set and a break down to capture that victory.


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