Date: 17 October 2021
Tournament: BNP Paribas Open
Venue: Indian Wells, USA
Category: WTA 1000
Prize money: $8,761,725
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN | UK - Amazon Prime Video
21st seed Paula Badosa will lock horns with 27th seed Victoria Azarenka in the championship round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Paula Badosa defeated Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-3 in the semifinals, advancing to the biggest final of her career yet. Despite what the scoreline may suggest, it was a competitive match with some tense moments towards the end, as the Spaniard needed six match points to close it out.
Badosa is in the midst of a breakthrough season. She has defeated top players like Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek, among others, winning her maiden title at the Serbia Open and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros.
Her consistent performances have seen her rise up the rankings to a career-high of 26, with her good showing at Indian Wells ensuring a top-20 debut next week.
Victoria Azarenka, meanwhile, had to rally from a set and a break down to defeat Jelena Ostapenko 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals to reach her first final of the season. The opening set was the first dropped by the former World No. 1 in this tournament.
After going up a break to start the second set, it seemed like Ostapenko was going to cruise to a straight-sets win. However, Azarenka started to play some of her best tennis and won five games in a row to go up 5-2 and eventually win the set.
She took the lead in the deciding set as well, but Ostapenko fought back to level the score. The Belarusian managed to get the decisive break in the 11th game to go up 6-5, and then fought off three break points to serve out the match.
Azarenka has blown hot and cold this season. She has had a few good moments but those pale in comparison to her performances last year. Now in her third final at Indian Wells, she'll be aiming to end her season on a positive note by taking home the title.
This will be the first meeting between Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka, so the head-to-head is currently 0-0.
Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka are both aggressive baseliners who look to outhit their opponents with their devastating groundstrokes. As such, this will be a contest of powerful shotmaking and remarkable winners. Both players have pretty strong first serves, though their second serves tend to break down under pressure.
Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam winner, has evolved her game in recent seasons -- she has improved her court coverage and is much more efficient as a player.
Badosa, meanwhile, has played brilliantly in this tournament, defeating two Grand Slam champions en route to the final -- Angelique Kerber and Barbora Krejcikova. She will look to produce another upset and take down another Slam winner in Azarenka on Sunday.
The Belarusian is the more experienced of the two players and has triumphed at Indian Wells twice before. That may just give her the edge in this contest and help her emerge victorious for the third time in the California desert.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in straight sets.