Elena Vesnina picked up her fourth win over Venus Williams in six tries beating the former No. 1 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach her first career semifinal at Indian Wells.
“I’m in the semifinal of BNP Indian Wells tournament, one of the biggest tournaments. I guess I’m on fire,” Vesnina said. “I’m enjoying myself on the court, and I’m really happy with my wins here.
“This win today against Venus really means a lot for me. It’s never easy to play against her. She’s a great champion and always fighting till the end.”
After another slow start to the match and some off-pace serving, Venus, who had fought back to beat Jelena Jankovic and Peng Shuai, made a late surge in the third in a lengthy ninth game but it wasn’t enough.
“I was actually very proud of myself, how I held my nerve. I was 0-40 down,” Vesnina said of serving for the match at 5-3. “But I didn’t even think about that. It was point by point, trying to create a good rally, trying to move her around.
“Couple of kind of big points she gave me unforced error, but I stuck to my game. I was like, ‘I’m never gonna lose this game.’ I was really fighting like it’s the last game of my life.”
The Russian joins compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals tomorrow. But Kuznetsova takes on Karolina Pliskova while Vesnina meets the surprising Kristina Mladenovic after the Frenchwoman upset 2011 Indian Wells champion Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.
“It’s been a lot of matches and, to be honest, it’s like the longest kind of string of winning matches I had so far in my career,” said Mladenovic who was 0-3 against the Dane.
“It feels great, but in the same time, every day I go out there on the court or in the gym practicing, it’s for moment like that. So I’m not getting too excited. I’m just super satisfied that I am on that kind of stages right now and trying to use my chances and the my opportunities I have.”
The win sends the 23-year-old Mladenovic into her first Premier Mandatory semifinal and also into the Top 20.
Vesnina has won both previous meetings against Mladenovic, both in straight sets.
“Kiki is having a great season,” Vesnina said. “She’s on fire. She won her first maiden title in St. Petersburg and then she made final in Acapulco. It’s going to be tough match. We played couple of times, but two, three years ago, and it’s totally different story now.”
In the early semifinal, Kuznetsova will try to reach her third Indian Wells final against Pliskova who is in her second straight semifinal in the desert.
“I have to play well,” Pliskova said. “So it’s more same for me, like, this tournament. Everyone is a little bit better on backhand. I just keep the same game plan and have to be aggressive and not going to her forehand. And don’t let her play, otherwise she’s going to let me run. That’s what she probably wants me to do.”
Kuznetsova and Pliskova split their two meetings, both last year in three sets. Pliskova won in Cincinnati, Kuznetsova won at the WTA finals.
“Here, the bounce of the ball is really high, and I really like it because I play with topspin,” Kuznetsova said of her Indian Wells success.
Regardless of outcome Friday, a new women’s champion will be crowned Sunday at Indian Wells.
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