Thursday, March 14, 2019 - Angelique Kerber plays Venus Williams in the quarterfinal of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber moved into the third BNP Paribas Open semifinal of her career on Thursday night at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, ending sentimental favorite Venus Williams’ run with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory in Stadium 1.
“Venus is just such a great player and an amazing champion,” said the German baseliner, who moves on to face resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic in the final four. “It’s always an honor to share the court with her. She’s still playing at such a high level.”
When she first took the court, her right knee heavily taped, it looked as if Williams might be in for a short night. Some of her early serves hovered in the 80-mph range, and she appeared physically compromised when it came to covering the baseline. But, to her credit, the 38-year-old American hung in there.
A backhand return winner with her opponent serving at 2-3, 30-40 would give Williams the first break of the match. But the nearly-hour-long opener would come down to a tiebreak, Kerber finally asserting herself to move ahead when Williams pushed a backhand into the net.
In total, Kerber, who played a conservative brand of tennis, would have 12 break-point chances in the one-hour, 36-minute match. She would convert just three, though the last would give her all the cushion she would need for 4-2 in the second set.
“She has a lot of experience,” said the 31-year-old baseliner. “She tried to change the rhythm a lot. It’s always tough to play against her.”
Williams, who was playing her third straight quarterfinal in the desert, opened her 2019 I-Wells campaign with a three-set survival against Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3. It marked the first time Williams lost a set-at-love since the 2017 Wimbledon final. She needed three sets to get past No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova, too, winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, her first Top-5 win in two years. But she couldn’t muster the staying power to hold off Kerber, who improved to 6-3 against the onetime Southern Californian.
Kerber earlier rallied from a 4-1 third-set deficit to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in the Round of 16, her first Top-10 win of the year. She advances to face Bencic, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Karolina Pliskova. Bencic holds a 3-1 advantage in career head-to-heads.
“She’s playing with a lot of confidence,” said Kerber. “She’s played unbelievable tennis in the last few weeks. But I’ll give it my best.”