While they broke out the vodka yesterday to celebrate two Russian women reaching the BNP Paribas Open final, today they’re raising their glasses to Elena Vesnina as she takes home the trophy. It’s Na zdorovje! as Vesnina lifts her glass in the form of the Baccarat crystal trophy and Indian Wells applauds its 2017 WTA champion.
Playing through moments of letdown, feeling the effects of the brutal desert sun, Vesnina and finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova fought through a three set, three hour match. It’s not just today’s match taking its toll, but a culmination of the entire tournament. Vesnina and Kuznetsova both had surges and wanes, only to dig deep and pull out another version of themselves, much like the Russian nesting dolls of their homeland.
Kuznetsova has a history of getting tight the closer she gets to the finish line. Twice down a mini-break in the first set tiebreaker, Kuznetsova somehow negated her nerves and pulled through the first set, 7-6(6). The second set seemed to be a runaway with Kuznetsova going up 4-1. With only two games standing between her and the title, Kuznetsova soon learned that Vesnina wasn’t going away. At five-all in the second set, there were as many breaks of serve and there were holds with 22 games played. Vesnina claimed the next two games, took the set 7-5, and the third set would decide the biggest match of Vesnina’s career.
Holding serve was the challenge. The third set totaled ten games and five service breaks. Vesnina punished Kuznetsova’s second serves; after claiming the ninth game, Vesnina sharpened her focus and took the deciding set, 6-4. When asked how she won the final set Vesnina said “In the end of the match, to be honest, I felt tired. But I was just not thinking — I was, like, come on, don’t think that you’re tired. Maybe this is the only chance you can get in your life, you know, and you’re thinking that you’re tired? Just forget about that. Just fight and don’t think about tiredness and about anything right now. Just play.” And played she did-all the way to a win. As for Svetlana, she’s already strategizing about her next match against Vesnina: “Definitely the next time I will come up to play against her I will have better strategy.”
With Miami starting and these two ladies in top form, we’ll keep an eye out for another Russian match-up.