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Women's Second Round: Sabalenka Battles From Brink, Coco Gauff Holds On
3 Min Read · March 9, 2024

Women's second round play at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open was thrilling from start to finish on Saturday. Aryna Sabalenka and Peyton Stearns combined to produce one of the most scintillating matches in recent history at Indian Wells.

Stearns almost reeled in one of the biggest upsets of the year as Sabalenka saved four match points to advance to the third round in three hours, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (8).

The duo traded huge forehands and roars, and seemingly covered every single part of the court to the delight of the roughly 15,000 assembled at Stadium 1.

Sabalenka also had to recover after seemingly hyper-extending her left leg and rolling her ankle before the final tiebreak. The now two-time Australian Open champion earlier showed her mettle by saving the match points — including three in a row on the Stearns serve at 5-4 in the decider.

Sabalenka accounted for the first with a lasered backhand winner, although her opponent ranked 64 erred on the ensuing three. The former University of Texas stalwart saved three match points of her own in the tiebreak down 6-3, with Sabalenka converting on her fourth chance when a backhand sailed long.

Sabalenka raised her arms skyward in joy, and perhaps relief.

“Wow, I think I was right when I see this tattoo of a tiger and I was fighting today like a tiger,” said Sabalenka. “It’s just crazy what happened. She’s an unbelievable player.

“She played crazy tennis. She said at the net, ‘I had you,’ so she’s right. I was probably a little bit lucky to get this win.  Super happy to get through this.”

"I didn't play my best tennis and she was crushing it like crazy. I was just trying to stay in the game and keep fighting for every point. But this match definitely goes into the book of craziest matches and the best matches of my career."

For Stearns, it marked another tough loss in 2024.

The 22-year-old entered Indian Wells with a 1-6 record. It’s now 2-7, with six of the seven defeats coming in three sets.

Coco Gauff Powers Through First Match Of 2024 Campaign

Nearing the end of her successful teenage years, Coco Gauff achieved another milestone. But the eloquent American had to pull off an almighty comeback at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open to do it.


Gauff overcame wobbles on serve — not to mention deficits of a set and break and 4-0 in the third — before defeating Clara Burel of France, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) amidst a packed Stadium 1. Gauff pointed to her head after outlasting Burel in a lung-busting rally to officially progress to the third round, where she'll face Lucia Bronzetti.

Rallying in matches is nothing new for the gritty 2023 US Open champion, who became the first teenager in the last 15 years to collect 50 wins at WTA 1000 events with her victory against Burel. Such classification of tournaments are the second highest after Grand Slams. 

“That’s pretty cool,” Gauff, who turns 20 on March 13, said on-court after her match. “I feel like I have a lot of stats and stuff like that. Hopefully I can close this chapter of my life off good. I’m really happy how my teenage years went."

With the aforementioned stats so often in her favor, the numbers weren’t kind to Gauff early against a French opponent that often changed pace. In the opening set against the rising World No. 47 — who collected her first Top 10 win against Jessica Pegula this season at the Australian Open — Gauff hit six double faults and committed 14 unforced errors, combined with three winners.

But she clawed her way back and after breaking for 4-5 in the third, produced six straight first serves to hold for 5-5. She set the tone in the tiebreak with a volley winner, then backhand winner.

“Happy with the mental fight,” Gauff said. “It wasn’t my best tennis, but it’s not about how you show up on your good days. It’s about how you show up on your bad ones, and I’m happy with how I showed up today.”

Pegula falls to Blinkova, who she lead 3-0 in head-to-head match-ups coming into Saturday.

Jessica Pegula Exits Against Anna Blinkova

Pegula, Gauff’s pal and doubles partner in Indian Wells, saw her own match comeback cut short against Anna Blinkova.

In her second tournament since parting ways with longtime coach David Witt, Pegula fell behind, rallied, but ultimately departed 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 at the hands of the World No. 45 Blinkova.

The No. 5-seeded Pegula had turned the tables after trailing by a set and break. But a 5-1 hole in the third proved too much for her to overcome, even if she narrowed the deficit. And opening losses are extremely rare for Pegula — it had only happened once in her previous 14 tournaments.

But Blinkova is now routinely pushing the game’s elite. She topped Caroline Garcia last year at the French Open, Elena Rybakina at the Australian Open and a resurgent Karolina Pliskova in the first round on Thursday. Pegula would have known all that, since she needed three sets to overcome Blinkova last week in San Diego and in Beijing in October.

Among others to advance on Saturday was Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open winner. Raducanu, who has had one injury after another, advanced when opponent Dayana Yastremska retired at 0-4 in the first set due to an injury.

Osaka Steps Up At Crucial Moment

Naomi Osaka is picking up steam.

The 2018 BNP Paribas Open champion bagged the biggest ranking win of her comeback when she beat World No. 15 Liudmila Samsonova 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday in Stadium 2.

Samsonova broke for 5-4 in the first — having trailed 3-0 — only to see Osaka claim seven of the ensuing eight games.

“I’m feeling great,” Osaka said. “I’m just really excited to see Shai after this. I was thinking during the match that I really want to win because she really loves it out here.

“So who am I to take her away from the desert?” 

Among others to advance on Saturday was Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open winner. Raducanu, who has had one injury after another, advanced when opponent Dayana Yastremska retired at 0-4 in the first set due to an injury. Sabalenka awaits in the third round.

To view more results from Saturday's Round 2 action, click below:


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