Badosa downs Azarenka to win Indian Wells
Paula Badosa has become just the third player to win the WTA Tour 1000 event in Indian Wells on debut, battling past former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka in a gruelling final.
Big-hitting Badosa finished strongly to prevail 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 7-6 (7-2) in a high-quality match.
She joined Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the tournament in her first appearance.
It was Badosa's second WTA Tour title of her career, having won in Belgrade earlier this year.
Azarenka was serving and two points from winning the tournament in the California desert when her game began to unravel behind a series of errors.
Badosa and Azarenka battled for more than three hours, trading back-to-back service breaks five times - including in the ninth and 10th games of the deciding set.
There was only to be one winner from that point though as Badosa dominated the tiebreaker to become the first Spaniard to take home the Indian Wells title.
"I remember when I was 14, 15 years old seeing you," Badosa told Azarenka after raising the crystal trophy.
"I told my coach, 'One day I hope I can play like her.'"
Badosa earned $1.2 million ($A1.6m), more than her previous prize money for the year of just over $1m ($A1.3m), and will move to a career high world No.13 on Monday.
She may not be done this year, either.
By winning the title, Badosa overtook Ons Jabeur for the eighth and last qualifying spot in the race to the WTA Finals, to be held next month in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Azarenka, a two-time major champion, was seeking just her second title since 2016 after her success last year in Cincinnati.
The 32-year-old from Belarus came up short in her bid to become the first woman to win Indian Wells three times, having taken the title in 2012 and 2016.
Azarenka noted her 4-year-old son, Leo, was watching on TV.
"I'm not bringing home the biggest trophy but it's still a trophy and I'm sure he'll enjoy playing with it," she said.
The tournament, which is sometimes called the fifth major, was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was pushed back from March to October this year due to the global health crisis.
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