Paula Badosa showed her mental toughness to become the WTA champion Indian Wells on her desert debut on Sunday with a relentless three-set victory over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
The Spaniard, who had not lost a set since her first game of the tournament, took three hours and four minutes to beat Azarenka 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) .
âEvery morning I wake up and my dream is to win a tournament like this,â Badosa said. “I have to keep working hard and always believing. The key is to enjoy the trip.”
Badosa won her only previous WTA final earlier this season in Belgrade, but she did so via a retreat against Ana Konjuh.
This one was softer because Badosa managed to close the championship point on the pitch, hammering a forehand winner to the open side that Azarenka could only watch sail.
Badosa celebrated the biggest victory of his career by falling face down on the ground, both hands covering his face as the crowd cheered.
“It’s a dream come true,” Badosa said during post-match festivities on the pitch.
She then turned to Azarenka, saying “I remember when I was 14 or 15 watching you win Grand Slam tournaments and hoping that someday I can play like that.”
Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka was looking to become the WTA’s first three-time winner at Indian Wells.
She fought back several times on Sunday, sinking after losing the first set in a hotly contested tiebreaker. But the 32-year-old Belarusian trailed off early in the tiebreaker in the final set and couldn’t recover.
Badosa got the first break of the game in the seventh game of the first set, but Azarenka immediately leveled off at 4-4.
Azarenka used an ace to win the fifth game of the first set, then used another ace to establish the winning point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead.
The first set lasted an hour and 20 minutes, including the hotly contested tiebreaker.
Badosa took a 4-0 lead but Azarenka resumed his way to tie it 5-5. Azarenka’s unforced error created a set point and Badosa overpowered her with a crushing cross forehand to end the marathon set.
Despite losing a grueling first set in a tiebreaker, Azarenka looked the cooler of the two early in the second set.
Azarenka started to enter the net more, which shortened the rally. Azarenka won the first three games of the second to set the tone, then served the set with some solid field goals and a few strewn aces.
Azarenka hit an ace to hit set, then closed it when Badosa hit a long backhand.
Azarenka held the serve in Game 8 of the third set as the two drew the lines in one of the game’s longest rallies. Azarenka blew up a backhand winner on the line to tie the set at 4-4.
Azarenka erupted in the ninth game, but Badosa returned the favor in the very next game as the third set, like the whole game, came and went.
The tiebreaker was about all of Badosa as veteran Azarenka appeared to run out of gas, losing four of the game’s last five points.