Elena Vesnina Overcomes Kuznetsova In Thriller To Win Indian Wells Title

Elena Vesnina

Russian world No.15 Elena Vesnina has completed her dream run at the BNP Paribas Open by stunning eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4, in a marathon final.


The three-hour battle saw the 30-year-old Russian stage a blockbuster comeback after trailing the match 6-7, 1-4, in the unforgiving Californian heat. In what was an emotional roller coaster for both the players and the crowd in Indian Wells, 16 breaks of serve occurred with few having any idea of who would win the match until the very last ball was struck.

Sunday’s final at Indian Wells was one that nobody expected. For only the second time in the tournament’s 29-year history no top-five player has progressed to the final. Furthermore, Kuznetsova and Vesnina are the fifth and sixth oldest players in history to play an Indian Wells final.

The title seemed destined for Kuznetsova. Twice she has settled for runner-up at the tournament (2008 and 2009). She was the one with the greater experience in the match, the highest ranking and the greater consistency. What Vesnina had was belief following her one-sided dismissal of Angelique Kerber earlier in the tournament. It was her belief that prevailed.

Embarking upon the biggest final in her career at the age of 30, the significance of the occasion failed to tame Vesnina’s intensity in the match against Kuznetsova. The first set saw a titanic clash with heavy hitting from both sides of the court. Vesnina’s firepower brought her joy and despair with a winner-error-loss ratio of 25-18 as Kuznetsova carefully weathered the storm.

Twice Kuznetsova was forced to bounce back from a two-game deficit in the opening set due to the tenacity of her rival’s shots. Both of Vesnina’s breaks were followed by a nightmare service game. Leading 2-0, four unforced errors within one game squandered her advantage. Then at 4-2, she lost the lead due to a double fault. Kuznetsova also encountered her own difficulties as nerves almost cost her the set. Trailing 4-5, a double fault rewarded Vesnina a set point before she blew it with a forehand error.

Continuing to dodge the constant momentum changes in the match, luck remained on the side of eighth seed Kuznetsova. In a frantic tiebreak, featuring eight breaks of serves, the higher ranked Russian benefitted from the mistakes of her teammate. With everything to play for at 6-6, a sublime Kuznetsova angle shot elevated her to a duo of set points, 23 minutes after she saved one. Both of those she failed to convert, but it was third time lucky after a ball brushed the top of the set to land on Vesnina’s side, sealing the 8-6 tiebreak in Kuznetsova’s favour.

One set away from a title that has eluded her throughout her career, Kuznetsova looked on course to run away with the second set as she broke to love on route to a set and 2-0 lead. Admirably Vesnina responded immediately by retrieving the break to love, but the firepower of her game started to falter against Kuznetsova’s power. Continuing to capitalize on her opponents weakening serve, Kuznetsova extended her lead to 4-1 before being pegged back to 4-4. Another shift in momentum gave Vesnina the chance to serve the second set out at 5-4, but once again she failed to seize her moment.

The turnaround

Finally Vesnina’s fight paid off two games later. A backhand down the line elevated her to set point. This time she would not squander her chance after a Vesnina ace out wide took proceedings into a decider.

Continuing to face adversity, Vesnina’s spirit would not be broken. The decider turned into the survival of the fittest. Two games away from defeat at 2-4, the would No.15 refused to give up and eventually wore her opponent down. Breaking for a chance to serve for the biggest title of her career, the Indian Wells fairytale finally came true after a Kuznetsova backhand drifted long.

“I have so much feelings (mixed emotions) now inside of me and I would like to congratulate Svetlana for an amazing week here (in Indian Wells). We are good friends and I’m sure we will have many more (matches) in the future.” Vesnina said during her trophy ceremony.

Winning her third and most prestigious tittle on the WTA Tour yet, Vesnina will rise up the ranking to a career best of 13th in the world.

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