The Associated PressINDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Elena Vesnina recovered after blowing three match points to beat Venus Williams 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night.
Vesnina staved off six break points in the last game, falling behind 40-love to start, before closing out the 71-minute match with two forehand winners. Williams overcame three match points on her serve on three straight errors by Vesnina in the eighth game that featured six deuces and lasted for 9½ minutes.
“I was really fighting like it’s the last game of my life,” Vesnina said. “I start serving with a little bit less power and a bit more pace. Couple of kind of big points she gave me unforced error, and I stick to this game. I was like, ‘I’m never going to lose this game.’”
Vesnina had 38 unforced errors and eight double faults; Williams had 47 unforced errors and seven double faults.
The 14th-seeded Russian takes on No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals. Mladenovic beat Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to break into the top 20 in the WTA Tour rankings for the first time in her career.
No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova are set for the other semifinal. Vesnina defeated No. 2 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and is already assured of her best result in nine appearances at the desert tournament.
“I guess I’m on fire,” Vesnina said.
Williams needed three sets to win two of her first three matches at Indian Wells, where she was playing for the second time after a 15-year boycott because of a hostile crowd reaction she received in 2001 after withdrawing with an injury from a semifinal against younger sister Serena.
Serena withdrew before the tournament began with what she said was a knee injury. Venus alluded to not being totally healthy, but declined to be specific. She has Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.
“Days like today are frustrating when I want to do more and can’t do more or didn’t do more,” said Williams, who played with a wrap on her leg but removed the wrap on her arm that she wore in earlier matches. “I had some issues. It’s great to know that I can try to play through what I’m going through and be very competitive.”Speech