Paula Badosa continued her impressive form at the BNP Paribas Open in Thrusday’s night session on Stadium 1, blasting her way past 2019 runner-up Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 7-5 to reach her second WTA 1000 semifinal of the season.
The Spaniard has been a quiet force on the WTA Tour this season, scoring career-best results (as many have) thanks to better off-court discipline in her training and an improved mentality in believing she can beat the very best. And indeed she has, dispatching World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty the week after she claimed the prestigious Miami Open title.
That world-beating form was on full display against former top-ranked Kerber, who has been back to her best this season having fallen from the Top 10 a few years back. The three-time Grand Slam champion dispatched Katerina Siniakova, Daria Kasatkina and Ajla Tomljanovic in Indian Wells this year and would have come into Thursday’s encounter as the slight favourite over her lesser known opponent.
But reputation means nothing in women’s tennis these days, with unparalleled depth that sees new stars emerge on a weekly basis – and Badosa is one of these rising stars. The 23-year-old got off to a shooting start in the match, breaking in Kerber’s opening service game, but wasn’t able to hold on to the early lead, surrendering the break right back as her opponent counterpunched with tenacity.
Just as Kerber threated to dig her heels into the set and make the match a war of attrition, a crucial break for Badosa on her first set point in the tenth game stopped the German’s momentum in its tracks after 41 minutes of hard-fought play.
Riding her own momentum, Badosa broke early once again but was able to hold on to her lead… that is, until it was time to serve out the match. Kerber, never one to back down from a baseline battle, broke and held to level the score at 5-5 in the second set. Undeterred by failing to serve it out at her first ask, she got the opportunity to ‘return for the match,’ generating break points as Kerber attempted to send the set into a tiebreak.
As she did in the first set, Badosa struck at the first opportunity, defending with relentless intent and clipping a few lucky lines to frustrate Kerber into one last forehand unforced error.
Welcome to the semis, Paula!
Earlier in the day, Ons Jabeur earned her own place in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 victory over Anett Kontaveit – but more than that, she’s officially through to the Top 10 in the WTA Rankings thanks to today’s quarterfinal win.
🇹🇳 @Ons_Jabeur fights her way into the biggest semifinal of her career by defeating Kontaveit in straight sets! 💪#BNPPO21 pic.twitter.com/TW2NzgIcSa
— wta (@WTA) October 15, 2021
Jabeur, who has been in the midst of a breakthrough season with consistent results and a maiden WTA title, will become the first Arab woman to rank within the world’s ten best women’s tennis players when the WTA Rankings are released on Monday – yet another piece of history achieved by the shot-making Tunisian.
And shot-make, she did. The No. 12 seed this week in the Palm Desert was the first to make her move early in the first set, attacking the Kontaveit forehand with penetrating flat balls through the centre of the court, which the Estonian struggled to control back into the court. With flashes of the all-court brilliance that fans around the world have come to admire, Jabeur moved ahead an early double break in the first set.
The No. 18-seeded Estonian, a confident and sturdy competitor in all aspects of the game, wouldn’t be blanked, however. Recovering one of the first two breaks immediately, she used her spinning angled shots to push Jabeur into going for too much glory while on the run, and eventually was able to level the match as the Tunisian failed to close out the set in the tenth game.
Yet Jabeur wouldn’t be denied. Recalibrating her tactics playing with slightly greater margin, she broke once again in the eleventh game with a delectable backhand down the line. With a much easier service game that followed, the Tunisian earned the first set after 49 minutes of play.
It was all Jabeur in the second set, serving with pin-point accuracy laced with power as Kontaveit tried to mix in different heights of spins to throw off the rhythm of her opponent, but to little avail. With a well-timed break to love and then another break two games later, Jabeur was through to the semifinals where she’ll face Badosa in their third career meeting.
In a battle between the tournament’s No. 21 and No. 12 seed, Badosa and Jabeur (respectively) will play for a spot in their first career WTA 1000 final – and fans can expect an absolute firecracker of a match.
The two 2021 breakthrough stories played earlier this season in Miami in similarly slow conditions. That match was won by Jabeur in an absolute epic, 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-5 in two hours and 36 minutes, and both players’ contrasting game styles should make for blockbuster tennis.
You’re not going to want to miss this one.