Kudermetova beats Osaka, Fernandez saves match points, Azarenka rolls at Indian Wells
21 seed Veronika Kudermetova defeated former champion Naomi Osaka, 6-0, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open. Kudermetova will face Marie Bouzkova for a spot in the Round of 16 after the Czech qualifier picked up her first Top 20 victory of the season by beating No. 14 seed Jessica Pegula 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 .
Kudermetova and Osaka were due to face off for the first time earlier this season at the Melbourne Summer Set, before Osaka pulled out with an abdominal injury ahead of their semi-final clash. When they first met on Saturday night, Kudermetova proved the fittest and most consistent player, the result of a strong start to the season which saw her play in two finals in Melbourne and Dubai, and also enjoy a success in doubles, having nearly finished a series of titles in the Middle East.
“I have a bit more confidence than last year because I think every day I train very hard and that really gives me more confidence,” Kudermetova said. “I’ve already beaten a lot of good players this year. It also gives me a lot of confidence.”
Kudermetova held serve to open the match at 1-0 when a fan was heard heckling Osaka as the players changed sides. The incident left Osaka shaken for much of the match, as she fought back tears during the game. During the next switchover, she asked the referee if she could use the microphone to address the crowd. Osaka would continue to play but addressed the crowd after the game on the pitch.
“Hi,” Osaka said waving to the crowd. “I just wanted to say thank you. I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera. To be honest, I’ve been heckled before and it didn’t really bother me. But heckled here…I Watched a video of Serena and Venus getting heckled here and if you’ve never watched it you should watch it I don’t know why but it just popped into my mind and was replayed a lot. try not to cry but, just wanted to say thank you and congratulations [Veronika]. Thank you.”
Despite the situation swirling around her, Kudermetova remained focused on the task at hand. She stormed through a 6-0 opening set with a clutch serve, while benefiting from a temperamental Osaka. Kudermetova saved all four break points she faced in the opening set, while keeping Osaka’s dangerous comeback game at bay. She served on 73% first serves, winning 81% of her first-serve points.
Kudermetova’s return numbers were equally staggering, winning 75% of her first-serve return points and 67% of her second-serve return points. As Osaka struggled to find her range from both the baseline and the service line – the former No.1 served just 40% in the first set – Kudermetova opened the scoring after 32 minutes.
Osaka responded by raising her level in the second set. She held her serve to get on the board and kept Kudermetova at bay in her service games. But Kudermetova remained steadfast in her own service games. She didn’t face a break point in the second set and Osaka’s serve eventually gave way at 3-3. With a break in hand, Kudermetova calmly held her serve twice more and closed the match after 1 hour and 17 minutes.
“It’s good to play against great players, against Naomi, because I never play against her,” Kudermetova said. “I want to play this game because I want to see what I can improve, what I need to improve. I’m playing really well today. I hope I keep playing like that.”
Azarenka finds her winning ways
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka found her way back to winning ways at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, beating Australian lucky loser Astra Sharma 6-3, 7-5 in her first match of the second round. No. 13 seed Azarenka will face No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina in the third round. Rybakina advanced earlier in the day beating Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-1, 7-5.
Azarenka was playing only her fourth match since the Australian Open, having retired ahead of her final match in Doha with a left hip injury. In her first encounter against the 26-year-old Sharma, the former No.1 exposed her full arsenal, maintaining sustained grassroots pressure on Sharma while charging into the net to finish the points with ease.
Highlights: Azarenka defeats Sharma in Indian Wells opener
“I felt I played well in the important moments,” Azarenka told reporters after the game. “I think there were some ups and downs in some games where I felt I could be a bit more decisive. But again, I haven’t played in a while. I have to have that game pace.
“Today was a good start to play against an opponent who gives a lot of different balls. I actually played really well. I’m glad I was able to manage myself and come up when it mattered. “
While she served 49% of first serves, Azarenka won nearly 80% of her first-serve points and 46% of her second-server points. Although broken three times for the match, Azarenka fought back to break Sharma five times, sealing the victory after 1 hour and 43 minutes.
Fernandez saves four match points to advance
18th seed Leylah Fernandez came back from the abyss to advance to the third round, saving four match points against Amanda Anisimova before the American retired due to illness at 2-6, 7-6 ( 0). Fernandez will face American Shelby Rogers in the next round, a rematch of their exciting round of 16 duel last year, which Rogers won 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4).
Champion in Monterrey last week, Fernandez extended her winning streak with a brutal comeback in the second set. Trailing 3-5, the 19-year-old saved a match point on her serve to stay in the game and hold on. With Anisimova serving at 5-4, Fernandez survived a triple match point to get to deuce and break to tie the set.
With the momentum firmly on her side, the Canadian stepped up to save two break points to hold it at 6-5, before Anisimova stopped the rot with a hold to force a tiebreaker. As Anisimova struggled to maintain her basic control, Fernandez ran away with the tiebreaker, winning 7-0 to tie the game. Anisimova then retired due to illness.
Bouzkova continues her fine form to upset Pegula
Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova is regaining her form. Now ranked No. 97, the 23-year-old has enjoyed solid form across North America, reaching the final in Guadalajara, the quarter-finals in Monterrey, and now a successful qualifying campaign in Indian Wells to defeat the No. 19 Jessica Pegula 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 to advance to the third round.
Highlights: Bouzkova beats Pegula for 1st Top 20 victory of 2022
“We had a very tough match at the US Open,” Bouzkova said. “I lost in the tie-break of the third set. I thought about that game actually because there were times when I could have been more aggressive. So I said to myself today, whatever win or lose, just try to have it in my hands a little more have no regrets.
After losing the first set, Bouzkova lost only two games for the rest of the match. She didn’t face a break point in the second set, winning 92.3% of her first service points to tie the game. After breaking love to open the third set, Bouzkova locked in defense and saved all four break points she faced to seal the win after nearly two hours.
“A very big victory and very special too,” Bouzkova said. “I always felt good playing here but I got my first win this year so I’m trying to build on that. After the first set I thought I felt good considering everything, I hits the ball well but obviously Jessie is an amazing clean hitter she has so much power and she hits amazing shots even though I lost the first set I told myself to keep going keep being aggressive to my side. I found the right balance between attacking and defending a few balls. It worked very well in the end.