INDIAN WELLS, California – Russian tennis stars Elena Vesnina and Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced to the final of the BNP Paribas Open, with victories over Kristina Mladenovic and Karolina Pliskova, respectively.
The 15th-ranked Vesnina raced out to big leads in both sets against Mladenovic, but she had to fend off strong comeback attempts by the Frenchwoman in each one before prevailing 6-3, 6-4 Friday evening.
Mladenovic struggled in particular on her first-serve points, only winning 49 percent of them during the one-hour, 24-minute match en route to getting broken five times.
Vesnina, who has advanced to the final of this WTA Tour Premier Mandatory hard-court event for the first time at the age of 30, reflected on the longevity that both men’s and women’s singles players are currently enjoying.
“I think 30 is the new 20 in tennis,” Vesnina said laughing in an on-court interview. “It’s just numbers. It’s nothing else.”
Her opponent in Sunday’s final will be the eighth-ranked Kuznetsova, who remains a top-10 player at the age of 31 and showed she can still compete for the big titles with a hard-fought 7-6 (6), 7-6 (2) victory Friday night over Czech world No. 3 Karolina Pliskova.
Pliskova had the edge on first serve, out-acing Kuznetsova 10-5, but the Russian’s superiority from the baseline gave her the decisive advantage in a match that lasted nearly two hours.
Kuznetsova has advanced to her third final in Indian Wells and will try to capture the title for the first time on Sunday.
Earlier Friday, American Jack Sock surprised Japanese world No. 5 Kei Nishikori 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 for his first-ever win over a top-five player and his first berth in the Indian Wells semifinals.
He now has an extremely tall order in his next match against 35-year-old Swiss great Roger Federer, who is playing some of the best tennis of his career in early 2017 and is looking to back up his title at the Australian Open in January by capturing his fifth Indian Wells crown.
Federer trounced archrival Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3 in the round of 16 and then on Friday advanced to the final four when Australian rising star Nick Kyrgios withdrew from their scheduled quarterfinal contest due to illness.