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Pennetta knocks out Li Na to reach her first Indian Wells final

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TENNIS – Flavia Pennetta clinched an impressive 7-6 6-3 win over this year’s Australian Open champion and Number 1 seed Li Na to qualify for the final at BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. For the Italian player, a former top-10, it’s the most important final of her career. Diego Sampaolo

 

Pennetta has completed her magic week by beating World Number 2 Li Na after knocking out her compatriot Camila Giorgi, Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens in the previous three rounds. The Italian survived an incredible quarter final marathon match against Sloane Stephens winning 6-4 5-7 6-4 after two hours and twenty-six minutes. During this match Pennetta went up a set and a break before Stephens clawed her way back in the second set. Pennetta served for the match at 6-4 5-4 but Stephens won the final three games of the second set to win 7-5 and went up 3-0 and got a point for 4-0 in the third set. However Pennetta clinched six of her next seven games to close out the third set on the fifth match point. This match was made very tough because of the very strong wind.

In the semifinal against Li Na Pennetta clinched a marathon 66-minute first set with 7-5 at the tie-break.

Pennetta broke serve four times in the first set but she never managed to consolidate them. She could not serve out the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5 but the first set came down to the tie-break. Pennetta took a 3-1 lead in the tie-break after Li Na made an unforced error. Li Na won two points in a row to draw level to 3-all. Pennetta recovered the mini-break at 6-4. Li Na fended off the first set point but she made her eighth double fault of the match on the second set point and Pennetta sealed the win in the first set.

The 32-year-old from Brindisi went down 0-2 in the second set but she fought back reeling off six of the next seven games. Pennetta got the decisive break in the eighth game for 5-3 before closing out the match with a backhand winner.

Pennetta hit 12 winners to 22 unforced errors. Li Na produced 29 winners but 52 unforced errors and faced many problems with her serve, as Pennetta broke her six times. .

Pennetta played one of the best matches in her career against Li Na who came to this match with a seasonal record of 17 wins in 18 matches.this season.

Pennetta scored her fourth win against a World Number 2 player after beating Jelena Jankovic in Zurich in 2008, Vera Zvonareva in Sydney in 2011 and Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing in 2011. During her career Pennetta won the Premier-level final in Los Angeles in 2009 and lost two finals in this tournament category in Los Angeles and Zurich in 2008. She is now back to the form of her 2009 magic season. This is the best result ever achieved by an Italian player in this Premier Mandatory Tournament. Thanks to this final reached in the Californian desert Pennetta will move up to World Number 14 in the WTA Ranking.

Pennetta has come back from a career-threatening wrist injury last year when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the semifinal at the US Open. This year she reached two quarter finals at the Australian Open where she lost to Li Na and in Dubai where she was defeated by Venus Williams

Pennetta took a re-match of the quarter final match at this year’s Australian Open won by Li Na with a double 6-2 but today it was a different story.

In Australia I didn’t have any chance against her but tonight I played much better. I just fought and tried my best. At the beginning of the week if you told me: You are going to make the final here, I would have said: No, I don’t think so. I am really happy with my game. I want to thank the crowd. They are always very nice with me in the United States.”, said Pennetta.

About her final against Radwanska, Pennetta said: “I will have to be aggressive against Radwanska. I played well against her in Dubai and I hope to play in the same way.”

Li Na was the first to congratulate with Pennetta, saying: “Making the semifinals at Indian Wells it’s not too bad. It’s not like I lost to a bad player. She was playing really well”.

Pennetta set up a final against Agnieszka Radwanska who beat this year’s Doha champion Simona Halep. The Pole leads 5-2 in their head-to-head clashes against Pennetta but the Italian beat the Pole earlier this year in Dubai.

Radwanska beat Halep 6-3 6-4 in the first semifinal. The Polish player cruised to 4-0 in the first set and got a point for 5-0 but Halep managed to win the fifth game for 1-4. Halep clawed her way back but Radwanska closed out the first set with an ace for 6-3.

Halep, who won their last two head-to-head matches, fought back breaking serve to take a 3-1 lead in the second set but Radwanska won five of the next six games to close out the match with 6-3 6-4.

With the semifinal reached in Indian Wells Halep will move up to World Number 5 next week.

I played her a couple of weeks ago and I knew how she is playing. She had really great results for the last couple of months She is a very solid player. What I was trying to do was to play aggressive from the beginning of the match and just try to go for my shots. I was lucky”, said Radwanska

 

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win

The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.

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Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

 

” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.

The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.

Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.

After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.

At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.

At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.

At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.

” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.

Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.

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Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test

Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.

Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”

It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.

“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”

In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.

So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.

Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.

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