Defending champ Badosa stops Fernandez to return to Indian Wells QFs

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Defending champion Paula Badosa booked her return to the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday night after defeating No.18 Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-4 in the fourth round. The 24-year-old Spaniard improved her undefeated record at Indian Wells to 9-0 and will face either Veronika Kudermetova or Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in her second semifinal of the season. The last player to win nine consecutive matches at Indian Wells was Naomi Osaka, who did so from 2018 to 2019.

Leylah Fernandez

Badosa is one of three women who have a chance at leaving Indian Wells with a career-high No.2 ranking, along with Poland’s Iga Swiatek and Greece’s Maria Sakkari. She is bidding to become the first woman to defend the Indian Wells title in over 30 years, with Martina Navratilova doing so in 1990-91.

The 24-year-old Spaniard has yet to drop a set in the first title defense of her career, having scored wins over Tereza Martincova, Sara Sorribes Tormo, and Fernandez. A champion in Sydney to start the year, Badosa is into her second quarterfinal of the season.

Tale of the tape: In their only previous meeting, 22-year-old Badosa edged 17-year-old Fernandez in the first round of qualifying at 2020 Auckland, 7-5, 7-6 (3). Badosa won $940 for winning that match. Needless to say, in their first main draw meeting on the Hologic WTA Tour, the stakes were remarkably higher.

“What most impact me in that moment is next day after she lost against me, the next day 7 a.m. she was practicing,” Badosa said, recalling their Auckland match. “I was like, Wow. Very, very intense player. Very hard worker. I thought she’s going to be a very, very good player. As you can see, she’s already top 20 at 19 years old. That’s amazing.”

How the match was won: Badosa proved the more powerful and more consistent player on this night, with the Spaniard coming up big on the biggest points of the match. Fernandez generated 6 break point chances but was only able to convert once. In contrast, Badosa kept the Fernandez serve under constant pressure, generating 12 break points in the match. Fernandez gamely saved nine of them.

The first six games of the match went the way of the server before the two traded breaks for the next three games. Badosa was the first to break serve to 4-3, but Fernandez wasted no time breaking right back to 4-4. But Badosa struck back again to lead 5-4 and closed out the opening set after 45 minutes with a love hold.

The second set saw the reigning champion step up to save two protracted service games to keep Fernandez at bay. After opening the set with a quick hold at love, Fernandez forced a seven-deuce game on Badosa’s serve and earned two break points. But Badosa did not flinch. The Spaniard held and would break Fernandez three games later for a 3-2 advantage.

It was a lead that Badosa did not relinquish. Once again, with Fernandez sniffing a comeback, Badosa held in a five-deuce game to 5-3. She shut the door with a clean hold to seal the win after 1 hour and 42 minutes.

Leylah Fernandez

Key stat: Badosa hit 23 winners to 28 unforced errors, while Fernandez hit 24 winners to 37 unforced errors. Importantly, Badosa won 78.7% of her first serve points.

Badosa’s keys to the win: “I knew that [being aggressive and serving well would] be the key. I knew she was going to make me move and not make me hit, like stop, because I was going to be aggressive and not letting her be moving me a lot.

“The key was a little bit the serve and to push her when she was serving. In the important moments, in the key moments, I served well and went for it very good.”


Rybakina beats Golubic to make first Indian Wells quarterfinal

17th seed Elena Rybakina rallied from a break down in the first set to defeat No.31 seed Viktorija Golubic 7-6(5), 6-2 to advance to her second quarterfinal of the season and first in Indian Wells. In January, the 22-year-old made her first final of the season in Sydney, where she lost to No.1 Ashleigh Barty.

Highlights: Rybakina powers past Golubic to reach Indian Wells QF

In Indian Wells, Rybakina has rediscovered the form that launched her to a fantastic start of the season. As Rybakina explained after her quarterfinal win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, she was felled by a foot injury at the Australian Open and contracted Covid in early February.

“I think I rushed too much to play in Doha,” Rybakina said. “I was still very weak. But I had this feeling that I’m not maybe feeling the greatest, but at least I can move, I can walk. I just wanted to try to push and play. I think I rushed.

“Here is the first tournament I can say, yes, after corona I’m feeling much better. I’m not coughing. Maybe physically I didn’t have good preparation, didn’t practice much, but at least I’m very happy that now I can play. No matter if the shot is good, it’s not good, I’m just happy that now I’m moving, I’m not in the bed.”

Rybakina came into her Round of 16 match against Golubic having yet to be broken in the tournament. Her serve has been clicking in the California desert, and though she was finally broken for the first time by the Swiss, her serve remained the difference-maker. Though she landed just 54.4% of her first serves, Rybakina won 74.2% of her first-serve points and 65.4% of her second-serve points. She faced just two break points in the match, sealing the win after 92 minutes to move to 2-0 against Golubic.

Rybakina will face No.6 seed Maria Sakkari on Thursday. Rybakina won their only prior meeting, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over the Greek star in the semifinals of 2020 St. Petersburg.

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