Two semifinal berths are left to claim in the women’s draw on Thursday, as defending champion and world No.7 Paula Badosa takes the court against Veronika Kudermetova, while world No.6 Maria Sakkari faces off against Elena Rybakina.
Join us for a deep dive into both matchups…
Defending champ three wins from historic title
No woman has mounted a successful BNP Paribas Open title defense since the legendary Martina Navratilova in 1991, but Badosa is closing in and starting to play her best tennis ahead of Thursday’s clash with Kudermetova.
After her 6-4, 6-4 takedown of Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Tuesday night, Badosa told reporters that she came to California lacking confidence and had to fight her way back into form.
“To be honest, it was tough for me when I came here the first week,” the No.5 seed said. “I was trying to adapt. I was playing well, but it was tough for me mentally because I had a lot of expectations. I didn’t play well in Dubai and Doha. I had very bad feelings there. It was tough here.
“I think my team did a very good job because it was tough, I know, to handle me the first few days. I’m very happy that I got through it. As I said, it’s very important in my case to fight.”
Badosa Embracing the Fight
Fight has been a familiar theme with the Spaniard since her breakout title at Indian Wells five months ago. Badosa has talked openly about her lack of mental toughness in her younger years, and her focus on the evolution of her fighting spirit over the last two years.
“I was very bad mentally,” she recalls. “I wasn’t a fighter.”
Badosa said it took her years to find the proper competitive balance on court. Anybody who has watched her this week, knows that the evolution is nearly complete.
“It took me years,” she said. “I was suffering. I was suffering a lot. I wasn’t lucky, maybe with people I had by my side in that moment, as well. A lot of things were not going well in that moment. I tried to think positive and I want to think that maybe that helped me to be the person that I am now.”
First Indian Wells QF 🙌
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 16, 2022
Kudermetova: On the Rise
She’ll enter as the underdog, and is the lesser-known half of this matchup, but don’t sleep on the 24-year-old. Kudermetova won her only previous meeting with Badosa last year, en route to her maiden title at Charleston, and here at Indian Wells she has looked like a player in full bloom.
Her 6-0, 6-4 victory over Naomi Osaka was breathtaking and provided fans with an eye-opening glimpse of her aggressive, well-balanced ground game. Her 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 triumph over Marketa Vondrousova late on Tuesday night demonstrated her willingness to grind out victories against unconventional opponents.
Sakkari: Let’s Get It Started
Maria Sakkari spent most of the 2021 season cracking milestones. The Greek became the first woman from her country to hold a top-10 ranking and reached the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the first time – then did it a second time to prove she was for real.
This year the 26-year-old is hoping to parlay the experience gained during an inspiring 2021 campaign into even more success. She told reporters on Tuesday that she feels she belongs in the top-10 and is much better at dealing with the stress – both physical and mental – that comes with making deep runs.
“It might sound a little cocky, might sound weird as well, but I feel like the tournament starts now for me emotionally,” Sakkari said after her round of 16 match. “I try not to spend so much energy on unnecessary things. I’m actually very fresh. I don’t feel like in any way that I’m empty or I have spent a lot of energy, unnecessary energy, in the matches.”
Rybakina: Happy to Be Healthy Again
Considered one of the most promising young players on the WTA Tour thanks to her booming serve and streamlined power game, Elena Rybakina got off to a slow start due to unforeseen circumstances in 2022.
First there was a leg issue, then problems with her feet. Finally, when she was ready to hit the ground running in St. Petersburg in February, she contracted Covid-19, and it really sapped her strength.
“I didn’t expect that Covid was going to be that hard for me,” Rybakina said last week at Indian Wells. “It was really, really tough. In one week I think I lost four kilos. I had high fever. I really didn’t expect it. I thought it’s going to be easier.”
Rybakina rushed to play in Doha later in the month but did not feel at 100 percent. But a dose of California sunshine has been the perfect tonic for the 22-year-old world No.20. She has rolled through three rounds without the loss of a set, taking out former champion Victoria Azarenka along the way.
Sakkari’s Best Version
The sixth-ranked Greek doesn’t want to be pegged to a specific ranking goal, but when she talks to reporters it is clear that she has a vision of another breakthrough season. The Greek says she just wants to keep climbing the ladder in the direction of her best self.
“I’m not going to tell you a ranking or a tournament result because I think we all have the same goals, we all want to get to No. 1 and win Grand Slams or win tournaments like this one,” she told BNPParibasOpen.
“I was a very good version of myself last year, I just want to become an even better version than last year. Then, if I can do that, then I’m sure that I’ll achieve better things than last year.”