Victoria Azarenka is still active in her quest to win the BNP Paribas Open for a third time. The No.27 seed from Belarus charged past 19th-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals.
The former World No.1 Azarenka, who was the Indian Wells champion in 2012 and 2016, took 1 and 34 minutes to end the run of Pegula and reach the final four of this event for the fourth time in her career.
Notable quotes: "I thought it was a really good match," Azarenka said in her post-match press conference. "Very high quality from both players. Very consistent in terms of level for me. I felt that I really played well in the crucial moments. I felt like I stepped up a lot to the occasion. That's what I'm really happy with today.
"I started going for my shots from the beginning. I knew I have to apply pressure on her, and I will have the moment where I will have opportunity. I think in the beginning of the match we had a lot of great rallies, a lot of points where I was like, 'Oh, maybe I got this one,' and she got me. I felt that I really just stuck to being aggressive and being consistent. I got my opportunities."
Stat corner: Azarenka had 21 winners to 18 unforced errors in the match, while Pegula's 27 winners were outpaced by 30 unforced errors. Overall, Azarenka won a sterling 81 percent of her first-service points, and she converted five of her 13 break points.
Earlier this year, Pegula upset the two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka in the first round of this year’s major event in Melbourne, which kicked off the American’s run to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
However, Azarenka avenged that loss on the grass courts in Berlin this summer and now has won the two of their past three meetings.
For Azarenka, it was her 32nd match-win at Indian Wells. Only two women have won more matches overall at this tournament, Lindsay Davenport (47) and Maria Sharapova (38). Azarenka is tied with Caroline Wozniacki for third place.
Azarenka will now contest her third semifinal of 2021. She also reached that stage this year at Doha (where she withdrew prior to her semifinal against Garbiñe Muguruza due to a back injury) and Berlin (where she lost to eventual champion Liudmila Samsonova after she defeated Pegula).
Key moments: Azarenka took the lead for good in the fifth game of the match, where a big-hitting rally ended in the Belarusian’s favor, giving her triple-break point. Azarenka converted the first of those chances by forcing a netted error with a strong backhand, giving her a 3-2 advantage.
Pegula used beautiful backhands to stave off two set points before holding for 5-4, but Azarenka would convert her third set point in the next game with an unreturned serve. Pegula had three more winners than Azarenka in the opening frame, but the American also led in unforced errors by 14 to 10.
After an early exchange of breaks in the first two games of the second set, Azarenka once again broke for 3-2, this time on her fifth break point of a critical 11-minute game. Azarenka eased to 5-2 from there, where she served for the match.
In that game, Azarenka was forced to stave off two break points, but outstanding serving at that crucial juncture helped her grit out the game and move into the Indian Wells semifinals once again.