INDIAN WELLS (California) • Stan Wawrinka raised his game on the big points and dominated the climactic third-set tie-breaker to beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2) on Thursday and reach the semi-finals of tennis' BNP Paribas Open in the United States.
The third seed - who six months ago beat Novak Djokovic to win the US Open - won a gripping slugfest against the 23-year-old Austrian, hammering home five third-set aces, including one to reach quadruple match point in the tie-break.
"The level was really high tonight," the 31-year-old Swiss star said in an on-court interview. "I'm really happy the way I was playing, the way I found a way to win it."
Thiem kept pace with Wawrinka on the strength of his booming forehand, but by the end of the 2hr 31min match, he lost the range on his favoured shot, belting three forehands long to lose his way in the third-set decider.
Wawrinka advanced to his first final-four appearance at Indian Wells, where he will meet 21st seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who was also extended to a decider in his 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) win over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
In the women's game, Elena Vesnina beat seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.
As Williams shook off a lethargic start and began to apply some pressure, the Russian kept her poise, finishing off the contest on her fourth match point after fending off six break points in the final game.
She will play Kristina Mladenovic for a place in the final after the French player's 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory over former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
"When I was up 3-0 in the first set she was missing some easy shots," Vesnina said of Williams.
"She looked tired and slow on the court. Then, all of a sudden, she started moving around, hitting great shots, winners from all over the place.
"I kind of lost my rhythm, because I didn't know what to expect."
After the match, Williams acknowledged some physical "issues" that had troubled her throughout the tournament, although she declined to elaborate. "I had some issues," said the American, who played with one thigh bandaged, but without the right arm bandage she sported in previous rounds.
The other quarter-final between Mladenovic and Wozniacki was a see-saw battle, featuring six breaks of serve as they played towards the second-set tie-breaker.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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