Jelena Ostapenko advanced to her first WTA 1000 semifinal in three years on Wednesday night, coming back from the brink in the final set to defeat unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals.
With wins over Hsieh Su-Wei, Yulia Putintseva, Iga Swiatek and Rogers, Ostapenko advanced to her third semifinal of 2021, where she will face two-time champion Victoria Azarenka for a spot in her first WTA 1000 final since 2018 Miami. Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, has yet to lose a semifinal this season.
Coming off her stellar straight-sets win over No.2 seed Swiatek in the Round of 16, the 24th-seeded Latvian kept her clean sheet against Rogers, moving to 3-0 against the American. The first fall edition of Indian Wells has been a surprising success for Ostapenko, who had never advanced past the third round in the California desert before this week.
Ostapenko opened the match at a quick pace, winning five of the first six games in just 22 minutes. Striking the ball big off the ground for a barrage of baseline winners, Ostapenko also feasted on the American's second serve. Rogers won just one point on her second serve in the opening set (1 of 11).
But Rogers' ability to dig in her heels and turn a set or match around has been well-proven over the past few weeks, where she has scored wins over No.1 Ashleigh Barty at the US Open, Bianca Andreescu in Chicago and a thriller against Leylah Fernandez in the fourth round of Indian Wells.
Rogers slowly began to turn the tables as Ostapenko's blistering hitting began to cool. Roger rallied from 1-5 down to win the next three games, but Ostapenko broke for a fourth time to take the set 6-4.
"I think from 5-1, I just stepped a little bit back and I was not that aggressive, and also maybe missed some balls, kind of gave her the opportunity to play," Ostapenko said. "If I just was playing the same until 5-1, I think I could close the set a little bit easier than 6-4. I felt like I was rushing a little bit too much and making some stupid errors."
Rogers may have dropped the first set but as the second set began, she had leveled up with Ostapenko and had her teeth in the match. While Ostapenko dominated second serve returns in the first set, it was Rogers who found better success pressuring second serves in the second set, winning nine of 10 second-serve return points and breaking Ostapenko's serve four times to edge out a hotly contested 6-4 set.
While Rogers hit 4 winners to 6 unforced errors in the first set, the 29-year-old from Charleston turned it around in the second set, hitting nine winners to six unforced errors in a smart, contained performance. Ostapenko hit 14 winners in the middle frame, but misfired on 18 unforced errors.
Turning point: The final set was an exchange of missed opportunities. Ostapenko found herself down 1-3 after having points to be 3-0 up. The Latvian had break point for a 2-0 lead but slammed an overhead wide, giving Rogers a reprieve. Then, serving at 1-1, she failed to close a 40-15 lead due to back-to-back unforced errors and a double fault on her third game point. Rogers was able to break for the seventh time in the match and consolidate for a 3-1 lead.
With Ostapenko reeling, Rogers had four chances to build a seemingly insurmountable lead. With Ostapenkpo serving at 1-3, Rogers earned four break points but could not convert. From 0-40 down, Ostapenko fired two clean winners and earned a missed return to get to deuce. She then saved a fourth break point by pulling Rogers side to side to earn a forehand in the net and went on to hold to 2-3.
"I think from 1-3 down, Love-40, I played like a top player," Ostapenko said. "Before I was rushing too much, making some unforced errors not in the right moments."
Having quelled Rogers' surge, Ostapenko took control, reeling off the final four games to seal her comeback and book her spot in the semifinals.
Stat of the Match: Ostapenko fired 51 winners to 46 unforced errors in the match. Rogers hit 22 winners to 17 unforced errors.
Ostapenko feeling fresh: "It's really great because especially after I couldn't play US Open, I was really sad about it because I was in such a great form before," Ostapenko said. "I think it's another great opportunity because it's a big tournament. I just enjoy it. It's the last couple of tournaments this season. I'm just going to try to enjoy it as much as possible.
"I honestly feel like I can continue the season much longer, but there are not many tournaments left. Most of the players are very tired, but I don't feel like that. I'm kind of feeling very fresh."
Next up: Ostapenko will face Azarenka for the second time in their careers, in an enticing battle between two Slam champions. Azarenka is bidding to capture a WTA 1000 title for the second consecutive season, while Ostapenko is looking to win her first.
"She's a great player," Ostapenko said. "She's such a champion, a great fighter I think. Both of us are great fighters. It's going to be an interesting match.
"I'm more focused on my game. Of course, she's very consistent. It's going to be hard. But if I play my game and choose the right shots, I will be consistent, I think it will be a very interesting match."