Defending champion Elena Vesnina has crashed out of the BNP Paribas Open in the third round after world number 10 Angelique Kerber proved to be stronger, triumphing in straight sets with a 7-5, 6-2 scoreline after an hour and 39-minutes of play. The scoreline could be deceiving as the encounter was much closer than it suggests, with Vesnina missing a bunch of opportunities throughout the match.
With this loss, Vesnina will drop drastically in the rankings, falling out of the top-40 for the first time since 2016. Whereas, Kerber will now face fellow top-10 player Caroline Garcia in the fourth round, fighting for a place in the quarterfinals.
Vesnina produces incredible comeback but falters ultimately
It was the best possible start for Kerber as the German held her serve to love before triumphing in a marathon game to grab the early break. Vesnina was struggling to follow-up her powerful serves and unforced errors overwhelmed the defending champion, and she soon found herself trailing 0-3 with Kerber looking unstoppable on her serve having lost just one point in two service games. The set seemed to be over when the world number 10 earned a double-break advantage, leading by four games to love.
Unexpectedly, a slew of errors from Kerber which came out of nowhere saw Vesnina breaking straight back to love, getting on board as she lessened the deficit. Rattling 20 of the last 26 points, the Russian stunningly found herself taking the lead for the first time in the match having claimed five games on the trot and earning the golden opportunity to serve out the set. However, nerves kicked in during the crucial moments, with Vesnina throwing shots directly into the net as Kerber stopped the rout in time.
Nonetheless, Vesnina immediately had the chance to regain her lead but she failed to convert four break points as Kerber’s forehand started to get into action, and the German served consecutive aces to narrowly grab the confidence-boosting service hold which ultimately proved to be a match-changing event.
Vesnina next had to serve to stay in the set, and everything could have changed had she converted her opportunities. Down 0-40, the Russian took several risks and hit a drop-shot winner, powerful cross-court backhand winner, two unreturnable serves to reach game point. However, yet another crucial error saw Vesnina ultimately gifting the first set 7-5 to Kerber after 55 minutes of play.
Kerber prevails during the crucial moments and takes the win
Getting back on the comeback trail, Vesnina earned break points in the opening game of the second set looking to make an early breakthrough. However, it just wasn’t meant to be as Kerber produced some unbelievable forehands to fend them off, eventually holding serve narrowly.
The set was extremely tight — with the first four games all being extended to deuce. It was Kerber who remained more composed during the important moments, with Vesnina getting too erratic at times. Hence, the German soon found herself leading by a commanding scoreline of 4-1, having saved break points on two different occasions.
Vesnina’s struggles with Kerber’s forehands continued as the Russian grew increasingly frustrated with herself but her frustration caused her to make even more errors. The Russian was yet again broken, and the world number 10 had the golden opportunity to serve out the match at 5-1 up.
A slight misfocus saw the defending champion breaking straight back, barely hanging onto a lifeline to remain in the tournament. However, she failed to find her first serves and double-faulted on game point, ultimately allowing Kerber to grab the 7-5, 6-2 win after 99 minutes of play.