Elena Vesnina and Svetlana Kuznetsova set up all-Russian final at Indian Wells
Elena Vesnina will meet Svetlana Kuznetsova for an all-Russian Indian Wells final. Vesnina secured her spot for the first career Premier Mandatory final after beating French player Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 24 minutes. Kuznetsova beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2).
Vesnina went up a double break to race out to a 5-0 lead. Mladenovic got one break back on her second break point in the fourth game for 2-5 as Vesnina made a double fault.
Mladenovic saved one match point at 2-5 down, but Vesnina converted her second match point to love on her serve in the 10th game to close out the first set.
Vesnina broke serve in the first game of the second set. Mladenovic failed to convert a break-back point in the second game. Vesnina got the double break to open up a 3-0 lead but went down 15-40 on her serve in the next game to drop her serve in the fourth game. Vesnina got another break and held her serve to race out to a 5-1 lead. The Russian player earned a match point at 30-40. Mladenovic saved the match point for 2-5. The French player earned a break point with two drop-shots and a backhand and converted it as Vesnina was trying to serve for the match. Mladenovic held her serve to love to claw her way back to 4-5. Vesnina converted her second match point to secure her spot in her first Premier Mandatory final and in her first title match at Indian Wells.
The 30-year-old Russian player will play in her first final since Charleston last year, when she lost to Sloane Stephens.
Vesnina completed a dream week in which she beat Angelique Kerber in the Round of 16 and Venus Williams in a three-set quarter final.
“It got tight at the end because Kristina started to play so free. She started to put a lot of pressure on me. It’s tough to play the whole match like this, so I tried to play steady. I tried to focus point by point. It’s not every day you have nights like that when you are in the semifinal of such a prestigious event and fighting for the final. Kiki was always trying to play her best tennis when she was behind on the score. It’s not easy to come back from 5-Love and 5-1”, said Vesnina.
The 2016 Wimbledon semifinalist admitted after the match that her experience as doubles player helped her in the most crucial moments of the match. Vesnina won the Olympic doubles gold medal with Ekaterina Makarova in Rio de Janeiro.
“I had all this kind of positive thinking and experience as well. I was serving a lot of times for the match in doubles for the Grand Slam finals, championship finals, Olympic finals, so I had this kind of pressure”, said Vesnina.
Mladenovic was the first to congratulate with Vesnina during the post-match interview.
“She played a great match. I felt like she was playing very fast, very aggressive. I didn’t feel that bad out there on the court. I came up with my game plan and I thought that she is a very aggressive player, so I thought I had to play with some variation. It was just going too fast for me. I don’t feel like I could do much better. I tried till the last point to come back in both sets. I think I showed that”, said Mladenovic
In the second semifinal Kuznetsova broke twice in the first and third games to open up a 3-0 lead in the opening set, as Pliskova made 50 percent of her first serves. Pliskova fought back by getting one break back in the fifth games after Kuznetsova made a double fault. Pliskova saved a set point at 3-5 with an ace. Pliskova got the second break-back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. In the tie-break Kuznetsova cruised to a 6-2 lead. Pliskova fended off four set points, but Kuznetsova hit a down-the-line forehand passing shot to close out the first set.
Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Kuznetsova did not convert two break points at 3-2. In a very tense baseline battle Pliskova fended off three break points to force the second set to a second tie-break. Kuznetsova cruised through to a 7-2 win in the breaker, as Pliskova made five unforced errors.
“I felt great. I felt like I was just giving all I had in me there. The moments that really matter are what I work for. I just feel great because I have been fighting for every ball. If she managed to win one of the sets and then we go for third, I would still be fighting and still playing every ball”, said Kuznetsova.
Pliskova took the positive from the defeat and congratulated with Kuznetsova after the match.
“Tonight I think she was not missing much from the baseline. She was really playing well. Definitely feeling the ball. She was really serving well. I played her a few times, and different conditions twice. So I think I would say this was the best match that I have played against her. I needed a match like this. It’s my third match I lost this year. I think it’s the best from those matches what I lost. So definitely there are positives”, said Pliskova.
Kuznetsova and Vesnina will play in the first all-Russian final at Indian Wells since 2006, when Maria Sharapova beat Elena Dementieva.