Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - Victoria Azarenka plays Jessica Pegula on day 10 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is back into the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time since 2016, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over American Jessica Pegula on Wednesday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
It marked their third encounter of 2021, having split decisions earlier this year in Melbourne and Berlin.
Azarenka, the 2012 and 2016 champion, improved her tournament record to 32-9, one of only four women to cross the 30-win mark in Indian Wells.
“It means everything,” said the 27th seed. “It’s been a difficult year. To be able to produce this kind of level, with the things I’ve been trying to change and implement, it’s really motivating to move forward. I’ve been playing on tour forever, but when you’re adding something new to your game, it’s kind of like you’re starting from the beginning. I’m really happy and motivated to keep going.”
Azarenka, 32, dug herself out of an early 0-2 hole in the opening set, reeling off four unanswered games to assume control. Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills (NFL) and Buffalo Sabres (NHL) owner Terry Pegula, saved two set points serving at 3-5, only to see Azaraneka serve it out one game later.
The two-time major champion and former No. 1 Azarenka moved ahead for good with a service break for 3-2 in the second set. She finished with five aces to four doubles faults, converting five of her 13 break-point opportunities in the one-hour, 34-minute match.
“I knew if I gave her one chance, she would definitely take it,” said Azarenka. “She’s such a good player from the baseline. She was really aggressive, so we had a lot of moments where it was back and forth. At 2-all in the second set, that was really important for me to take my opportunity. I just tried to give her as hard a time as possible and stay focused.”
Azarenka’s semifinal opponent will be Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, who turned back a challenge from American Shelby Rogers, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in two hours and 15 minutes on Wednesday night.
“It was a great match,” said the 24th seed, into her third semifinal of 2021. “She was playing well. I was playing a little bit against myself because I was playing up and down. I felt like I could finish in two sets. I had so many opportunities. I missed some balls. But it was tough to play against her.”
Azarenka claimed their only previous meeting in the first round at Roland Garros in 2019, 6-4, 7-6(4).
“I’m really happy to be in the semifinals,” said Ostapenko. “It was a tough year for me. But I feel like my tennis is getting better and more consistent. I’m glad that today, when I was losing 3-1 in the third set, I was still fighting until the last point. I managed to win and close the match.”