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. Up next in our Indian Wells countdown is Victoria Azarenka's dramatic victory over Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open on the road to her famed 'Sunshine Double.'
HOW THEY GOT THERE: Two double-digit seeds don't often clash in the later stages of Premier Mandatory events, but No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka and No.18 seed Karolina Pliskova had pedigrees above their seeding when they arrived at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open.
Former World No.1 Azarenka spent five months of the 2014 season sidelined with a foot injury, and after dropping out of the Top 40 prior to the 2015 Australian Open, the two-time Grand Slam champion started a resurgence.
Quarterfinal berths at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2015 heralded Azarenka's return to form, and the Belarusian captured her first title in three years to kick off 2016 at the Brisbane International.
On the rise and seeming primed for a Top 10 return entering Indian Wells - where she'd won the title in 2012 - Azarenka recorded straight-sets wins over Zarina Diyas and Zhang Shuai in her first two matches after a first round bye.
She next defeated longtime rival and No.26 seed Samantha Stosur in three sets in the fourth round, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, beating the 2011 US Open champion for the eighth time in nine career matches, and earning a berth in a third quarterfinal in four tournaments played to begin the year.
After making her Top 10 debut in 2015, Pliskova arrived in Indian Wells the next year on a mild downturn. Seeded No.9, the Czech suffered a third round exit at the Australian Open, and lost her opening matches in both Doha and Dubai before coming to the California desert.
Nonetheless, she served notice with several statement wins - including a 6-2, 6-0 win over former French Open champion and World No.1 Ana Ivanovic, seeded No.14, in the third round, and a thrilling 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 win over No.25 seed Johanna Konta in the round of 16.
The pair had dominant showings in their respective quarterfinal matches to set up their eventual clash in the final four - with Azarenka scoring a double-bagel victory against Magdalena Rybarikova, and Pliskova surrendering just five games in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina.
After playing for the first time in 2008, Pliskova and Azarenka did not meet again until a dramatic match in the first round of the 2015 Brisbane International. In that encounter, the Czech trailed 6-4, 5-4, and saved two match points in the second set, before going on to win a thrilling 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 match.
With seven years between their first and second meetings, and 15 months between their second and third, the Czech hoped that her recent success would rub off in their California meeting.
"I saw it few times already because I thought it was a really good match," Pliskova said after beating Kasatkina in the quarterfinals. "I was down match point so I almost lost this match, but in the end I won.
"It was a big fight and big match, and especially was the first match of the season, so it was a big thing for me, big win, so I will remember this one. I just hope if I play her I play the same level."
WHAT HAPPENED: Quicker of the two out of the gates, Pliskova was the first to break serve and held on to her lead for nearly the duration of the first set. The Czech did not face a break point herself en route to building a 5-3 lead, and was one point away from pocketing the opener as she threatened a second break.
Azarenka ultimately saved two set points in the ninth game, holding serve to force Pliskova to serve for the set at 5-4, and broke back on her second opportunity in the next game.
She held emphatically to love to take her first lead since 2-1, and dominated the set down the stretch. In the ensuing tiebreak, Azarenka won the first five points, and ultimately sealed a crucial first-set comeback in just short of an hour.
The second set proved the complete inverse to the first, and it began as Pliskova won a titanic game that helped her build momentum into the set. In a six-deuce game, Pliskova saved four break points to hold, and rode that momentum through to a love break in the second game -- taking a lead she would not relinquish.
The No.18 seed broke to love to lead 2-0, never again faced break point for the set, and won Azarenka's serve to love once more in the sixth game en route to sending the match to a decider.
However, the final set quickly went the way of the former World No.1: despite seeing a break point slip away in Pliskova's first service game, Azarenka ultimately took a 3-1 lead and was never under threat from there.
Losing just four points in four service games in the decider, the No.13 seed was at her most effective on return when it mattered most. After Pliskova served 13 of her 17 aces for the match across the first two sets, Azarenka won exactly percent of the points in Pliskova's service games in the last set, she wrapped up the victory - and a berth in her second final of the season - with a third overall break of serve to win the match.
WHAT THEY SAID: After sealing the victory in just over two hours, Azarenka shed some light on how she was able to reset and refocus after the second set, which ultimately proved key to her win.
"I think it was probably the middle of the set that was a little flat," Azarenka assessed of the mid-match lapse. "I had a few chances on her serve in the beginning of the second set and I didn't convert them.
"I think I lost a little bit of my focus, aggression that I was playing with before. It's sometimes difficult to get back, so I tried to use my time at 4-1 to really regroup and start doing the things that were working before and really dial it in in the beginning of the third set."
The Belarusian's victory set up was another meeting against longtime foe Serena Williams, who was the top seed and sitting at World No.1 in the rankings.
In the recent history of the head-to-head at the time, the pair played three times in 2015. The American won all three of those matches in three sets - including at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
"There's not going to be too many surprises, but definitely you have to step it up. It's going to be exciting for me," Azarenka said.
"We haven't played for a while. Since Wimbledon, I believe. I feel that I'm in a little bit different position right now. For me, it's just exciting to play against the best player in the world right now. This is what I worked really hard for. I'm looking very much forward to.
"I had a lot of opportunities. I think Wimbledon was one of the matches that in the third set she really -- she really outplayed me and she was just on every ball; everything was going her way, but I did have opportunities. I won the first set. I had few close games. So just for me to know that there's always a chance it's a good thing, but I know that I have to go a step more to be able to be a winner on the other side.
"[I'm] definitely more confident [now]. But I think confidence for me doesn't come from results but knowing that I'm prepared, knowing that I'm doing everything to put myself in the best position. That's what brings me confidence."
WHAT IT MEANT: With a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Williams in the championship match - her fourth win in their head-to-head all time - Azarenka won her second Indian Wells title, and her first Premier Mandatory event since winning the 2012 China Open.
Two weeks later, the Belarusian capped off a 12-match spring winning streak with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Miami Open, to win not only her third title there, but become the third player to pull off the illustrious 'Sunshine Double.'
The Belarusian didn't lose a set over the course of the second event, returned to World No.5 at its conclusion, and joined Stefanie Graf and Kim Clijsters as WTA players to complete the feat of winning Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back.
Despite only playing three more WTA events for the year, Azarenka's spring was one for the history books - and she nonetheless had a life-changing end to the 2016 season.
She announced her pregnancy in July, gave birth to her son, Leo, in December of that year, and made her return from maternity leave the next June.