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Badosa edges Azarenka in Indian Wells classic to win biggest title of her career

Azarenka served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but Badosa held firm to clinch victory in the longest ever Indian Wells final

Paola Badosa, Indian Wells 2021 Paula Badosa, of Spain, kisses her trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, in the singles final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)/IDW127/21290858089382//2110180205

WTA 2021 BNP Paribas Open |  Draw  | Order of Play

Paula Badosa became the first Spanish woman ever to win the BNP Paribas Open title when she edged out former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2) on Sunday in a titanic battle full of stunning ball-striking.

Azarenka served for the match and was two points from victory – a third in Indian Wells – when she led 5-4, 30-0 in the decider but world No 27 Badosa held firm to break back and then win the deciding tiebreak for the biggest title of her career. “This is a dream come true,” she said.

After crunching yet another forehand winner, the 23-year-old fell on the court in delight, having battled past Azarenka in three hours, four minutes of brilliant tennis, the two women going head to head, groundstroke for groundstroke, one of the best finals in Indian Wells history and officially the longest.

Badosa stays strong in one of best matches of the year

Badosa added Azarenka to her list of victims over the past week and a half, joining Barbora Krejcikova, Angelique Kerber, Coco Gauff and in the semis, Ons Jabeur, in finding the Spaniard too good, too strong.

On paper, this was the first time an Indian Wells final had seen two players ranked outside the top 20 but this was a brilliant, high-class contest, both women smashing the ball from the baseline, while Azarenka tried to attack on returns, get to the net when she could.

Badosa broke first for 4-3 but handed it straight back. The two were battering each other with bruising groundstrokes but it was Badosa who broke again for 6-5. At 30-30 she was two points away but Azarenka twice guessed right when Badosa should have put the ball away and she broke back to force a tiebreak.

Undeterred, Badosa raced to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak. Aazrenka fought back but Badosa got herself to set point at 6-5 and she clinched the set with a backhand into the open space after 28 shots to end a 78-minute set.

Azarenka fights back in typical style

Azarenka broke immediately at the start of the second set as she quickly took a 3-0 lead.

Badosa, who looked a little jaded at times after the effort of the first set, got one of the breaks back but Azarenka broke again to lead 4-1 and maintained her momentum and intensity to close out the set and force a decider.

Badosa holds her nerve under pressure to win title

The momentum was very much with former world No 1 Azarenka but Badosa held serve from 0-30 in the opening game and, becoming more aggressive, she broke for a 2-0 lead only to drop her own serve from 40-15 as Azarenka thundered groundstrokes down at her feet.

The Belarussian levelled at 2-2 and had chances to break again but Badosa dug deep to nudge in front again. Azarenka chose a good time to have her first love hold of the match, immediately passing the pressure back to Badosa. Again the Spaniard held from 0-30 down to keep her nose in front/

Azarenka held for 4-4 with a brilliant backhand down the line after another brutal rally. More incredible defending from Azarenka and seemingly a sixth sense about where Badosa was going saw the Belarussian force a break point and the pressure told as Badosa sent a forehand wide.

Serving into the sun, Azarenka led 30-0 but four unforced errors from Azarenka gifted the Spaniard the break back and then held comfortably to lead 6-5. This time, Azarenka held to force a deciding tiebreak but just as in the first set, Badosa made a fast start to lead 3-0 and she held on to clinch the title.

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