Kuznetsova, Vesnina set up all-Russian Indian Wells final
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[March 18, 2017]
(Reuters) - Twice grand slam
winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and 14th seed Elena Vesnina posted
hard-fought, straight-set wins in Friday's semi-finals to set up an
all-Russian final in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Kuznetsova played exceptional defense and used her strong serve and
a varied groundstroke attack to edge third seed Karolina Pliskova
7-6(5) 7-6(2) in a tense showdown following Vesnina's 6-3 6-4 win
over Kristina Mladenovic.
The 31-year-old eighth seed Kuznetsova rose to the occasion in the
tiebreakers, storming out to a 6-2 lead in each.
Nerves struck in the first-set decider as she netted two backhands
and produced an embarrassing double fault that made it 6-5 before
rifling a forehand passing winner to end it.
There were no dramas after taking the big tiebreak lead in the
second set and she raced along the baseline for another retrieval
that induced a wide forehand from the disgusted Czech, who flung
down her racket as Kuznetsova rejoiced.
"I was looking to defend good because it's really hard to overpower
her," Kuznetsova said in an on-court interview.
"So I had to put lots of pressure on her and put as many balls back
as I could."
The 24-year-old Pliskova, the ace leader on the women's tour last
year and again so far in 2017, had 10 aces and a slew of inside-out
forehand winners but was often let down by her backhand.
Vesnina, a three-times grand slam doubles champion, reached her
first Premier Mandatory final with victory in the California desert
over 28th seed Mladenovic.
Driving winners off both wings, Vesnina raced to big leads in each
set, then held off the battling Mladenovic.
[to top of second column]
Elena Vesnina (RUS) celebrates at match point as she defeated
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) in her semi final match at the BNP Paribas
Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne
Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Vesnina claimed a 5-0 lead in the first set, breaking
her French opponent twice before letting her onto the scoreboard.
Mladenovic broke back in the seventh game, but it was too late to
deny the set to Vesnina.
Vesnina dominated again at the start of the second set, breaking
Mladenovic's first two service games in building a 5-1 lead.
Swinging more freely, Mladenovic fought off one match point with a
volley winner while serving down 2-5, broke the Russian in the next
game and then held serve to make it 4-5.
Vesnina finally closed it out when Mladenovic netted a second serve
return, sending the beaming Russian into a jump for joy.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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