Vesnina rebounds for hard-earned huge payday

Russian veteran Elena Vesnina with the BNP Paribas Open trophy, after taking more than three hours to outlast compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Russian veteran Elena Vesnina with the BNP Paribas Open trophy, after taking more than three hours to outlast compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

INDIAN WELLS • Elena Vesnina survived a battle of attrition and nerves to beat fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday and secure the biggest title of her tennis career.

After more than three hours in the scorching mid-day sun on the Indian Wells hard court, the former doubles specialist clinched victory on her second championship point when eighth seed Kuznetsova sent a service return long.

The win marked by far the biggest singles title of Vesnina's career and will boost the 30-year-old to 13th in the world rankings, surpassing her current career high of 15th reached last month.

She had stared defeat in the face, down 1-4 in the second set before reeling off four consecutive games after starting to play more aggressively in an effort to keep the points short and conserve energy.

"I was playing a bit more free when I was down in the score and I think Svetlana got a bit tight on some moments and I saw that and I just took my chances," said Vesnina, whose previous WTA titles came at Eastbourne and Hobart in 2013.

"I was trying to get rest. My dad (and coach Sergey) said, 'Come to the net, put pressure on her', and it worked."

The 14th seed collapsed to the court with a mixture of ecstasy and exhaustion, before the combatants hugged at the net.

For Kuznetsova, who was making her third appearance in the Indian Wells final and first since 2008, the result will leave a bitter taste as she was seeking to shed her reputation as a player who struggles to close the deal in big matches.

"I felt like when I was playing, I didn't feel good today, because she was very aggressive, and I was a little bit out of my game," the 31-year-old said. "I was too passive. I think that's why I lost."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Vesnina rebounds for hard-earned huge payday'. Print Edition | Subscribe