WTA Indian Wells: Defending champion Elena Vesnina kicks off campaign with impressive display against Catherine Bellis
Elena Vesnina, with both hands raised in the air, celebrates the confidence-boosting victory over Catherine Bellis | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

WTA Indian Wells: Defending champion Elena Vesnina kicks off campaign with impressive display against Catherine Bellis

Elena Vesnina, the defending champion, got off to a perfect start to her 2018 campaign as she eased past the dangerous Catherine Bellis despite losing the opening set.

don-han
Don Han

It is quite unusual to see a three-set match being completed in just an hour and 34-minutes, but Elena Vesnina took just this amount of time to earn a terrific victory over the talented home favorite Catherine Bellis, triumphing 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Elena Vesnina and Catherine Bellis meets at the net for a nice handshake after the encounter | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Elena Vesnina and Catherine Bellis meet at the net for a nice handshake after the encounter | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Being the defending champion here in Indian Wells, Vesnina knew that an early loss will result in a drastic fall in the rankings and she found herself in some deep trouble after Bellis strolled through the first set 6-2. If the Russian were to crash out in the opening round, she would fall to 48th in the rankings. However, she rebounded perfectly, finding her range to ultimately seal the impressive victory after just 94 minutes.

Bellis strolls through the opening set

It was a tricky opening game for Vesnina, who was struggling with the depth Bellis has on her groundstrokes and the American ultimately found ways to force errors out of her opponent, earning a break point. Nonetheless, the defending champion utilized her reliable serves, throwing in an ace on that crucial point which proved crucial as the Russian overcame the slight scare to get on board.

Catherine Bellis took the one-sided opening set 6-2 but it wasn't enough as she was overpowered for the remainder of the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Catherine Bellis took the one-sided opening set 6-2 but it wasn't enough as she was overpowered for the remainder of the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Absorbing the pace of Vesnina’s shots and redirecting them, Bellis was simply firing on all cylinders as she took eight of the next 10 points to go up an early break. Despite so, she was unable to consistently find her first serves and was thus broken straight back by the resurgent Russian.

However, Vesnina was having problems following up her powerful first serves, and Bellis often prevailed in their baseline rallies. Winning just five of 17 first-serve points, Vesnina lost the first set 2-6 to an inspired Bellis who was extremely solid in her game.

Vesnina responds in the best possible manner

The changeover allowed Vesnina to regain her composure and confidence, and she certainly showed them well in the first game of the second set as the Russian blasted her way to a comfortable service hold, firing some impressive winners along the way. Errors from Bellis started to overwhelm her, and Vesnina dutifully took advantage as the American trailed on the scoreboard for the first time this afternoon.

Elena Vesnina's groundstrokes looked on fire towards the closing stages of the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Elena Vesnina's groundstrokes looked on fire towards the closing stages of the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Vesnina faced some troubles while trying to consolidate the break but ultimately completed the job after fending off a break point with her clinical aggression before sealing the game with an unreturnable serve.

Having the perfect opportunity to close out the amazing bagel victory, Vesnina had a slight misfocus while Bellis continued to give it her all, not giving up despite the one-sided scoreline. However, it was too late to mount a comeback as the defending champion eventually served out the set 6-1, sealed on an unbelievable backhand winner.

Vesnina overcomes early hustle to take the win

All the momentum was with Vesnina and she looked on course to grab the comfortable victory when she earned two break points in the opening game of the deciding set. However, Bellis was inspired and fired down some powerful aces while Vesnina became passive on the crucial points, allowing the talented youngster to narrowly escape from the brink and hold serve.

Vesnina faced no troubles on serve, and her efforts were finally rewarded as she took the lead after multiple tries, with Bellis finding herself in deep trouble now.

Elena Vesnina's tough mentality saw her rebound from the disappointing first set to prevail in three sets | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Elena Vesnina's tough mentality saw her rebound from the disappointing first set to prevail in three sets | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Unforced errors started kicking in and Vesnina next faced break points in her following service games, but she was simply firing as the world number 22 produced some impressive tennis to not only fend off those break points, and also open up a double-break lead.

Running high on confidence, Vesnina was unstoppable and Bellis had no solutions as she was getting overpowered during rallies. Bellis, despite getting encouraged by her supportive home crowd, lost the last seven points of the match and Vesnina got off her title defence to the perfect start.

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