WTA Indian Wells: Elena Vesnina dominant in victory over Kristina Mladenovic to reach first Premier Mandatory final

WTA Indian Wells: Elena Vesnina dominant in victory over Kristina Mladenovic to reach first Premier Mandatory final

14th seed Elena Vesnina is through to her first Premier Mandatory final in the Californian desert after a dominant straight-sets victory over 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic.

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Max Gao

14th seed Elena Vesnina looked dominant throughout in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic to book her place in her biggest-ever final at the BNP Paribas Open, where she will meet eighth seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Valiant Vesnina Eventually Secures Opener After Tough Tussle

Having played some of her best tennis this week to notch wins over the likes of Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams, Vesnina hit the ground running against Mladenovic, dictating right from the off. With her ability to quickly match and neutralize the Frenchwoman’s variety and aggressive style of play point after point, the Russian was quickly able to put Mladenovic on the defensive right from the off or make her hit just one extra ball. As a result, despite some great shotmaking at times from the new French number one, Vesnina always seemed to be able to play the big points better, thus allowing her to jump out to a commanding 5-0 lead with just 19 minutes on the board.

Kristina Mladenovic lunges to hit a backhand volley during her straight-sets defeat to Elena Vesnina in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Kristina Mladenovic lunges to hit a backhand volley during her straight-sets defeat to Elena Vesnina in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

However, when it came to secure that one-set advantage, Vesnina failed to meet the challenge initially, as she began to miss right when Mladenovic began to raise her level. Playing with much more authority, which allowed her to come forward a lot more often, the 28th-seeded Frenchwoman quickly began to reduce the deficit, getting as far as winning three games on the trot with some astonishing volleying.

But in the end, it proved to be in vain as Vesnina would ultimately overcome any lingering butterflies to serve the set out to love, winning it, 6-3.

Elena Vesnina celebrates after winning a point during her straight-sets victory over Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Elena Vesnina celebrates after winning a point during her straight-sets victory over Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Vesnina Survives Late Onslaught to Continue Dream Tournament

The second set proved to be a mirror image of the first as Vesnina would rediscover her early momentum to break immediately before fighting her way to a hold to consolidate her early advantage, saving a break point in the process. As more and more unforced errors began to flood their way back into Mladenovic’s game, Vesnina took full advantage; the Russian’s persistence proving to be enough to earn her a second break of serve, gifted by a dreadful smash from the Frenchwoman.

However, much like in the opening set, Mladenovic managed to put aside what had been a pretty woeful evening to try and flip the script on Vesnina, who showed no signs of slowing down. Stepping into the court with a new sense of urgency, the 28th seed was able to recover one of the breaks, only to have Vesnina erase it in the next game with her fifth break of serve.

Elena Vesnina lunges to hit a forehand return during her straight-sets victory over Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Elena Vesnina lunges to hit a forehand return during her straight-sets victory over Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

But as she began to approach the finish line, things began to be shaky for the Russian, an all-too-familiar case of déjà-vu. After squandering a match point at 5-1 on the Mladenovic serve, Vesnina fell victim to her own nerves as her French counterpart refused to back down, gritting out a tough hold before breaking the Russian to reduce the deficit to a single break. Once there, Mladenovic wasted no time in consolidating the break at love, thus putting her within one game from restoring parity in this semifinal match.

But in the end, Vesnina’s experience would prove telling as she overcame Mladenovic and her own nerves at the second time of asking to book her place in the biggest singles final of her career.

Elena Vesnina and Kristina Mladenovic shake hands after their semifinal meeting at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Elena Vesnina and Kristina Mladenovic shake hands after their semifinal meeting at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

“It got tight at the end because Kristina started to play so free,” said the Russian after the match. “She started to put a lot of pressure on me. It’s tough to play the whole match like this, so I tried to play steady. I tried to focus point by point.”

Next up for Vesnina: Kuznetsova

Standing in her way of a perfect ending to a dream week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Vesnina will go up against eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who ousted third seed Karolina Pliskova in two tiebreak sets, in an all-Russian final on Sunday. Despite being teammates since they were twelve, as Kuznetsova recalled, the pair has split their only two meetings in professional competition, with the last one coming nearly three years ago on the clay of Oeiras, which was won by Kuznetsova in straight sets.

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