Welcome to Sunshine Stories, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable matches from the North American spring over the past five years. Kicking off our countdown from Indian Wells is the final from the 2015 BNP Paribas Open between Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic, which served as a milestone moment in the future World No.1's career.
HOW THEY GOT THERE: In one corner was the in-form No.3 seed Simona Halep, who arrived at Indian Wells having reached the quarterfinals or better at all six events she played for the season. The Romanian was riding high, having captured her 10th career title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Halep extended her winning streak to nine matches across the fortnight, which included three-set wins over Daria Gavrilova and No.26 seed Varvara Lepchenko, and a 6-4, 6-4 win over Karolina Pliskova -- the second meeting of their careers and in 2015, beginning what has become a defining head-to-head on the WTA in the seasons since.
After beating No.12 seed Carla Suárez Navarro in straight sets in the last eight, Halep earned a walkover from top seed Serena Williams in the semifinals -- as the latter was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to a knee injury in her first appearance in Indian Wells since 2001.
On the other side of the draw, Jelena Jankovic was experiencing a resurgence.
Despite being seeded No.18 at the tournament, came into Palm Springs out of form. The former World No.1 was ranked outside of the Top 20 had struggled with a back injury for much of 2014, and also saw her tennis affected by a hip injury at the start of the season.
That the Serb would be one of the last two players standing by the end of the fortnight was far from a sure bet, too. She was taken to three sets in four of her five matches over the course of the two weeks, needing to rally from a set down in three of them.
Jankovic lost the opening set to Lauren Davis in the second round, No.16 seed Madison Keys in the third round and No.24 seed Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals - and was also taken to three sets by No.31 seed Belinda Bencic in the round of 16.
WHAT HAPPENED: Despite losing the last three meetings against Halep, Jankovic won five straight games to claim the opening set, which, despite its one-sided nature on the scoreboard, lasted three-quarters of an hour.
Five of the set's eight games extended well past deuce, with Halep's opening service game setting the tone for the match. She saved four break points before Jankovic broke on a fifth, and though she'd break back immediately and hold with ease to lead 2-1, Jankovic's love hold for 2-2 started her on the path to a one-set lead.
Ultimately, the former World No.1 stayed in the driver's seat for much of the second set, as she built a 6-2, 3-1 lead, and led by a break twice in the second set. Jankovic served for her biggest title in five years at 6-2, 5-4, and though she was two points away from victory, she never arrived at match point.
Halep broke to level the second set at 5-5, and ultimately won 10 of the last 13 points from Jankovic's pole position at 6-2, 5-4, 30-30 to send the match to a decider.
Jankovic again had her chances in the final set, as she was the first to break and led 2-1 and 3-2 while being set to serve.
The pair traded breaks three times in the decider, and after Jankovic twice led, it was Halep who dropped serve at 5-3 after winning three straight games -- only to break to love to finally end the championship in her favor.
WHAT THEY SAID: At the conclusion of the marathon match, both players were candid with reporters on their thoughts regarding their strengths that put them in positions to win.
"I don't know how I won today because I didn't play my best," Halep said after the match. "I didn't play good tennis, but I just wanted to fight until the end because I think that is the most important thing for my style, for myself.
"Every match was very important for me, for my mind. I just had the confidence that I have my chance here this tournament, and I just did everything to get it."
The Romanian was also complimentary of Jankovic's play over the course of the two hour, 40-minute encounter, having been stretched to three sets for the fifth time in the pair's five meetings to that point.
"She played great tennis today. All the tournament she played amazing. She's amazing because she's running a lot and she has a lot of experience," Halep said.
"She was very concentrated at the beginning, like [from the] first point. Everything went good in her way, and then I just wanted to stay focused. I had only positive things in my mind that I can go until the end to fight and to win."
In defeat, Jankovic was famously upbeat, despite seeing a chance to add a second Indian Wells title to her mantle slip away.
"Overall, it was a great final and we both fought so hard. We were grinding from the first point. I thought I did really well," the 2010 champion said, with a trademark sigh.
"I won that first set 6‑2. I was up a break, and in the second I put myself in the position to win the match, to serve it out, and I think at the end of the second set I got a little bit nervous. I got a little bit tentative, and that was my big mistake.
"She's a tough player. She's not going to give you anything. You have to earn it yourself, and I knew that and I did not execute, you know, when it mattered. That's why I lost the match.
"But overall, it was a great fight, you know, from both of us. I'm happy for Simona that she got her first title here at Indian Wells."
For the then-30-year-old Serbian, an appearance in her first Premier Mandatory final in 18 months was ultimately an affirmation that her career was not yet finished, despite a prior year full of questions and doubts.
"It's almost like a dream, you know, because I never thought I was going to be here in the beginning of the tournament, so it's been an amazing two weeks," she said.
"I have showed once again that I can play and I can be up there and that I belong in the top, that I can play some good tennis.
"It was just a matter of, you know, being healthy and as well believing in myself, not having doubts if I can do it, if I'm able to play at a high level or not.
"I have shown that I can do it again, and hopefully, you know, it will give me ‑‑and it has given me a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in myself that I should continue to work hard on my game and everything to be even better and compete with these top players, week in, week out."
WHAT IT MEANT: Halep's victory earned the Romanian a third title of 2015, and biggest of her career to that point. The Romanian appeared in two more finals at Premier 5 level in 2015 and finished runner-up to Belinda Bencic in Toronto and to Serena Williams in Cincinnati.
Though she suffered earlier-than-expected exits at the French Open and Wimbledon, losing in the second and first rounds, respectively, Halep recorded a best-ever US Open result in the summer by reaching the semifinals.
After qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore for the second straight year, Halep finished the season with what was then her best-ever year-end ranking of World No.2.
Jankovic's run in the desert ultimately helped herald what might've been the Serbian's last stand.
She returned to the Top 20 by virtue of her run in Indian Wells, and later in the summer, reached the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time since 2010. En route, she upset defending champion and then-World No.2 Petra Kvitova from a set and a break down.
Ultimately, Jankovic won three titles to end 2015, first triumphing at the WTA 125 Series event in Nanchang, China in August, and winning both Guangzhou and Hong Kong during the Asian swing in the fall.
Slowed by a right shoulder injury in 2016 before ultimately undergoing back surgery in 2017 and eye surgery in 2018, Jankovic's last professional match to-date came in a first round loss to Petra Kvitova at the 2017 US Open.
Overall, Halep and Jankovic played eight times between 2010-17, with Halep winning seven straight after Jankovic's lone win at the 2010 US Open.
Six of their matches went the distance -- the first five, and their last, a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win for Halep in the second round of the 2017 Shenzhen Open.