January 28, 2022

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Paula Badosa, Victoria Azarenka in Shock Indian Wells Last

Paula Badosa, Victoria Azarenka in Surprise Indian Wells Final

She stays at her greatest on hardcourts. When she beat her longtime rival Serena Williams in a three-set thriller to achieve the 2020 U.S. Open final, it appeared she was in place to return to the fore this yr. However she didn’t make deep runs on the Grand Slam tournaments in 2021, and Sunday’s match will probably be her first tour singles remaining of the season.

“I believe my season has been difficult,” she mentioned. “There have been components the place I bodily couldn’t carry that further stage, further combat, which was very irritating. Then there have been components the place I felt that I used to be searching for one thing so as to add, and I didn’t essentially know what it was. It was lot of looking.”

Persistence was definitely required in her high-velocity, high-intensity semifinal with Jelena Ostapenko, the sturdy and highly effective Latvian who can pound a tennis ball like few on the planet and barely deprives herself of the pleasure. A lot of her 45 winners have been properly past the 6-foot Azarenka’s attain. However after dominating the opening set, Ostapenko’s trademark high-risk strategy resulted in additional errors. Azarenka adjusted to the tempo and commenced capitalizing on Ostapenko’s often-shaky second serve.

Azarenka got here inside two factors of defeat late within the third set and needed to combat off three break factors within the remaining sport: saving the final with a uncommon and gutsy drop shot that she adopted to internet, the place she learn Ostapenko’s passing shot completely and hit a lunging volley winner.

“Are you able to be extra courageous than that?” Azarenka mentioned.

She quickly closed out her 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory, and Badosa adopted her into the ultimate by defeating Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-3 however solely after failing to transform her first 5 match factors. When Jabeur’s final shot sailed huge, Badosa dropped to the court docket, relieved and overwhelmed.

Ranked seventieth on the finish of final season, she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at this yr’s French Open and the fourth spherical at Wimbledon earlier than splitting with Javier Martí, the coach who had helped construct the muse for her sturdy season.

She now works with Jorge Garcia, a Spaniard who coached her in her youth, and as she has proved on the comparatively sluggish hardcourts in Indian Wells, she is a multi-surface risk. She has highly effective groundstrokes, full-stretch defensive expertise and a capability to come back rapidly ahead to chase down dropshots or end off exchanges on the internet.

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