Paula Badosa overcomes Victoria Azarenka to win the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells
Paula Badosa grinds out a three-set win over Victoria Azarenka to win an epic Indian Wells championship match on Sunday; Badosa becomes the first Spanish woman to win the tournament in the California desert and will move to a career-high world No 13
Last Updated: 18/10/21 8:06am
Spain's Paula Badosa survived a stiff challenge from the experienced Victoria Azarenka to win the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The 23-year-old big-hitting Spaniard belied her inexperience by finishing strongly against the former world No 1, prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 7-6 (7-2) in a high-quality match lasting just over three hours.
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It has not been an easy path, but we got the reward with hard work, passion and faith. Don’t let anyone tell you cannot achieve something. If that happens, prove them wrong. Today I fulfilled one of my dreams, playing the finals in one of the biggest events in the world… pic.twitter.com/aEPJBCcrLA— Paula Badosa (@paulabadosa) October 18, 2021
Azarenka rolled back the years at times and served for the match only to falter at the crucial time when her game began to unravel behind a series of errors.
The 32-year-old Belarusian, who landed in hard quarantine at the start of the year in Melbourne and spent the next eight months trying to find her way back, displayed all her fighting qualities to stay in an absorbing contest.
But little-known Spaniard Badosa gained straight-sets wins over Grand Slam champions Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber on her way to the final and was never going to be over-awed by the occasion.
She took advantage of the shift in momentum and held her nerve in the final set tie-breaker, firing a crosscourt forehand winner on championship point and falling to the court in joy at the end of the more than three-hour battle.
Badosa, 23, praised WTA Tour veteran and two-time major champion Azarenka, who she said she had admired since she was a teenager.
"I remember saying to my coach that I hope one day I can play like her," Badosa said after receiving the championship trophy.
"Thank you for inspiring me so much. Athletes like you and women like you, I wouldn't be here without you. Really."
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Badosa also thanked her family in Spain for their support as she overcame injuries and mental health struggles in recent years to win the biggest title of her career.
"I know they are watching. I want to say thanks for helping me every day and getting me through the bad moment. This is a dream come true," she said.
With the win, Badosa becomes the first Spanish woman to win the tournament in the California desert and will move to a career-high world No 13 on Monday.