Victoria Azarenka is on the verge of becoming the winningest champion in the history of the WTA Tour’s Indian Wells, Calif., event.
The 27th-seeded Belarusian player advanced to the final of the BNP Paribas Open with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over 24th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia on Friday.
Azarenka, who won the tournament in 2012 and 2016, will oppose 21st-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain in the title match on Sunday. Badosa topped 12th-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-3, 6-3 in the second semifinal.
Azarenka is one of nine WTA players who share the record of two Indian Wells championships since the event was established in 1989. She is part of an illustrious list that also includes Martina Navratilova, Mary Joe Fernandez, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Daniela Hantuchova and Maria Sharapova.
Neither Azarenka nor Ostapenko possessed a dominant serve Friday, as they combined for four aces and 14 double faults. Azarenka proved slightly more successful on break opportunities, converting five of her eight chances to Ostapenko’s 4 of 13 success rate.
Ostapenko, already up a set, held a 2-0 lead in the second set before Azarenka won the next five games. Azarenka broke serve in the opening game of the final set before Ostapenko pulled level at 3-3. A decisive service break gave Azarenka a 6-5 lead, and she saved three break points in the final game to seal the match.
“I thought the most important (thing) … was my fight, that I can be really proud of,” Azarenka said, in her post-match press conference. “Analyzing the game, it was a lot of probably things that I could have maybe done a little bit better.
“Overall she was playing really incredible in the first set, not giving me much to do. I was just trying to find opportunity, actually create opportunity, for me to get back into the match, to take a little bit more control in the match, really fight for every ball.”
Badosa, 23, is headed to the final of a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time in her career. Her best showing in a Grand Slam event came when she reached the quarterfinals of the French Open this summer.
Badosa has made just one other WTA final in her career, when she won the title at Belgrade, Serbia, in May.
The biggest struggle for Badosa on Friday arguably was closing out the match. She couldn’t convert three match points on Jabeur’s serve at 5-2 in the second set, then dropped the first three points on her own serve in the next game. Badosa shook off the three break points and eventually wrapped up the win on her sixth match point.
–Field Level Media