Indian Wells will crown a first-time champion in 2017

Saturday, Mar 18

Elena Vesnina and Svetlana Kuznetsova have set an all-Russian final in Indian Wells this year.

Vesnina was the first to advance into the championship match with a steady win over Kristina Mladenovic, who made her Top 20 debut this week. Vesnina beat the up-and-coming Frenchwoman 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour, 24 minutes.

For the most part, Vesnina breezed through the first set and faced her toughest challenge in the second. The Russian was up 5-1 and held a match point before Mladenovic stormed back and threatened a comeback. Vesnina was broken serving for the match from 30-0 up at 5-2, but she did not fail on the second time of asking.

Vesnina’s biggest wins of the tournament came against World No. 2 (No. 1 next week) Angelique Kerber in the fourth round and Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. Vesnina has only dropped two sets en route to her first ever WTA Premier Mandatory final.

Vesnina’s story is a fun one to follow. At the beginning of 2016 she sat outside of the Top 100 and had to play in qualifying draws. By April, she was the runner-up at the inaugural Volvo Car Open in Charleston, South Carolina. A few months later she made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon as an unseeded player. She’s been seeded ever since.

Kuznetsova defeated World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova in two tough tiebreak sets 7-6(5), 7-6(2) for her spot in the final. The win took 1 hour, 55 minutes for the Russian to pull off.

Despite the fact that the match ended with tiebreaks, there were breaks of serve in this encounter. Each player was broken three times, to be exact. Like Vesnina and Kerber, Pliskova was Kuznetsova’s only Top 10 win en route to the final.

In 2016, Kuznetsova defeated Serena Williams in Miami (which begins next week) and will surely look to this Indian Wells final for a confidence boost heading in to Florida next week. This will be Kuznetsova’s third appearance in the Indian Wells final. She has never won this title before, meaning a new champion will be crowned in the desert this year.

The women’s championship match will be on Sunday March 19.


Feature photo via BNP Paribas Open