PREVIEW: Will Experience Elevate Kuznetsova And Federer To Indian Wells Glory?

The veterans of the tour have taken control of Indian Wells with four players over the age of 30 preparing for the finals of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open.

For the first time since 2006, the Californian crowd will see an all-Russian clash between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Vesnina. Meanwhile, the men will follow with an all-Swiss battle between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. It is only the second time in history a Masters 1000 final has featured two Swiss players after Monte Carlo 2014.

The women’s final (18:00 GMT)

A year ago nobody would have predicted this final between Kuznetsova and Vesnina. In 2016 Vesnina crashed out in the first round of qualifying, whilst Kuznetsova was slowly making her way back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2010.

“That was a big turnaround now for me, from first round of qualies and now being in the final. This is a dream,” Vesnina said in her post-match press conference.

This time round the disparity between the two is significantly smaller. Eighth seed Kuznetsova progressed to her 12th mandatory final by edging past Karolina Pliskova is a tense semifinal encounter. Meanwhile, 14th seeded Vesnina has enjoyed a dream journey. In the fourth round she defeated soon to be world No.1 Angelique Kerber by dropping only six games. Vesnina then continued her momentum with wins over Venus Williams and Kristina Mladenovic.

There is little to deduce from their previous meetings on the tour. The two have played each other twice before with Kuznetsova winning their most recent meeting in 2014 (Estoril on the clay).

“She plays pretty aggressive tennis. That’s it. I play more defensely, but my spin is my key, probably.” Kuznetsova said about Vesnina.

If all goes according to stats, Kuznetsova is expected to triumph in the desert. She has the greater experience and higher ranking. Still, it is set to be a hard task against a player such as Vesnina, who is currently at an all-time high in confidence at the age of 30.

“She obviously liked playing here with the balls flying and jumping quite high. She’s using her forehand — like, powerful forehand topspin here a lot. Brings a lot of points.” Vesnina said about her Fed Cup teammate.
“It’s going to be very difficult match, you know, when you’re playing against kind of the — from the same country. You know, it’s never easy, but I’m going to just enjoy.”

Declaring that she feels ‘fresh in her mind’, Kuznetsova has the edge in this encounter. Benefiting from the greater experiencing of playing in big tournaments, the Russian has the power and variety to tame her rival. Furthermore, she is also a two-time finalist at Indian Wells.

On the other hand, women’s tennis is anything but predictable.

route to the final

Round 2 Def Johanna Larsson (SWE) 7-6(3), 6-4 Def Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-4, 7-5
Round 3 Def Roberta Vinci (ITA) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 Def Timea Babos (HUN) 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Round 4 Def Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-1, 6-4 Def Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-3, 6-3
Quarter-finals Def Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-3, 6-2 Def Venus Williams (USA) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Semifinals Def Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-6(5), 7-6(2) Def Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4

The men’s final (from 20:00 GMT)

After the Women’s will be Switzerland’s finest. Four-time champion Federer faces compatriot Stan Wawrinka in what will be a repeat of this year’s Australian Open semifinal, which Federer triumphed in five sets.

In what will be their 24th meeting on the tour, it will only be the second time that the two have played each other in a final after Monte Carlo 2014. Federer currently has a dominating 21-3 win-loss record against his rival and has won every since match they have played on a hard-court (14-0).

Nevertheless, it will be far from simple for the 35-year-old. Wawrinka has illustrated his ability to shine in the big tournaments on American hard-courts by defeating Novak Djokovic to win last year’s US Open, continuing his three-year trend of winning a major trophy each season.

As the year’s go by, Federer has been more severely tested in his encounters against Wawrinka. Since 2014, four out of their eight meetings have gone to a deciding set, but Federer has won six of them.

“I think he’s (Wawrinka) cleaned up his game really nice on the faster court. He’s the reigning US Open champ and back in his first American tournament. He’s back playing. It shows that wasn’t a surprise, you know, that he won the US Open.” Said Federer.
“And I think he does a really nice job of defending and then creating — going from defense to offense, you know. He’s improved his serve. Especially as he goes deeper in the tournament, you know, confidence builds. That’s when he’s harder to Stop.”

Trailing their head-to-head, Wawrinka is remaining upbeat about his Masters title chances. This week is his 90th appearance at a Masters event (compared to Federer’s 124th). His sole triumph occurred in 2014 on the clay when he stunned Federer in Monte Carlo. This time round, things are different as the three-time grand slam champion relish in being pain-free following a knee issue at the start of the year.

“So far the season has been good, even though. I had an injury, and I had to take some time off and do some hard work at home to get back fit and ready. I am really happy with the way I’m playing, and I’m really enjoying to be here and playing a final” Said Wawrinka.

Federer’s experience of playing in 44 Masters 1000 finals could prove pivotal in the match. Inevitably the Californian crowd will be rallying behind him, but that alone will not be enough to tame the talent of somebody like Wawrinka. For Wawrinka the crucial factor will be if he is able to maintain consistency in the match and cope with Federer taking time away from his shot-making.

Crowd favourite Federer might have the slight edge to take the title based on experience, but he will need to fight harder than before to succeed. Federer’s fourth round clash against Rafael Nadal turned out to be a one-way victory, but don’t expect the same against Wawrinka.

Route to the final

Round 2 Def Stephane Robert (FRA) 6-2, 6-1 Def Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) 6-3, 6-4
Round 3 Def Steve Johnson (USA) 7-6(3), Def Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-5, 6-3
Round 4 7-6(4) Def Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-2, 6-3 Def Yoshihito Nishioka  3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
Quarter-finals Def Nick Kyrgios (AUS) – walkover Def Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2)
Semifinals Def Jack Sock (USA) 6-1, 7-6(4) Def Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-3, 6-2

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