No.21 seed Paula Badosa became the first Spanish woman since 2003 to advance to the semifinals of BNP Paribas Open after defeating 2019 finalist Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. Badosa will face Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in Friday's semifinals, with the winner advancing to the biggest final of their careers.
Indian Wells is Badosa's second WTA 1000 semifinal of the season; she advanced to the same stage at the Madrid Open in May.
In the fourth round, Badosa tallied her fourth Top 10 win of what has been a breakout 2021 season, beating French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets. Playing in her first main draw in the California desert, the 23-year-old has also tallied wins against Coco Gauff and Dayana Yastremska, losing just one set en route to her Friday showdown with Jabeur.
In her first meeting against former No.1 Kerber, Badosa continued to deploy the successful game plan that earned her a quarterfinal spot. It was Badosa who was able to both minimize her unforced errors while increasing steady pressure from the baseline throughout the match to break the German five times.
"She's a really tough player," Badosa said. "She's really tricky. Of course I've seen her a lot, but on court she's really tricky, she opens the court a lot. Sometimes she plays short balls but then very long ones. She plays very tactically.
"At the beginning it was strange for me. She runs a lot. She sees all the balls where you're going to hit. It's quite tough for me at the beginning and at the end as well. It was a really, really tough one."
Turning Point: After an early exchange of breaks in the opening set, both women moved through their service games with relative ease. But serving at 4-5, 30-30, Kerber misfired on back-to-back points to hand over the set. At 30-30, the German hit her second double-fault of the set to give Badosa her second break point of the set and the Spaniard converted when Kerber sent a regulation backhand long for her 12th unforced error of the set.
Badosa continued the pressure on Kerber's service games in the second set. Badosa broke twice to build a 5-2 lead, but the three-time major champion dug in her heels to save two match points to hold to 3-5 and then broke Badosa to get back on serve at 4-5.
"The 5-2 game, I got really nervous. 5-3, 5-4 until 5-All, she played amazing game," Badosa said. "Of course I was nervous, but she's an amazing champion. The champions, they play well at the important moments and at the limits. So that's what she did."
Badosa steadied on to seal the set on a break of serve. After a pair of holds, Badosa finally earned her third match point and crouched to the ground in celebration after Kerber sent a forehand long to end the match.
Stat of the Match: While both women finished the match with 20 winners apiece, it was Badosa who played a cleaner match, hitting 22 unforced errors compared to Kerber's 29. The Spaniard was able to break Kerber five times with help from Kerber's low first-serve percentage of just 56.7%.
Badosa on having friends on tour and playing them this week: "I think it's really important. I'm really, really proud and happy that I have a lot of friends on tour. Of course, it's lonely and they're you're opponents some days, like maybe tomorrow or the other day with Barbora [Krejcikova].
"I'm lucky that I have a lot of good relationships with the players. I think it's important. You just compete on the court, but outside the court you can have a good relationship. I'm like that, as well. We can share moments.
"At the [end] of the day, you're spending more moments between each other than with your own family. It becomes even more your family. They become your own family after so many years. I think it's nice like that. I'm very competitive, but on court. Outside court, I don't feel that. I'm happy that I can say that they're my friends."
Up next: Badosa will face Jabeur for the second time this season. The duo have split their two career meetings, with both matches going a full three sets on hard courts. Badosa was victorious in their first meeting at the 2015 US Open, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4. Jabeur notched her first win over the Spaniard earlier this year in Miami, securing a tight 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 victory in the second round.
"I hope tonight she eats a lot of burgers and she cannot play," Badosa said, laughing. "We were just talking now. It's really fun to play against her. We're really good friends again so I'm playing another friend. It's going to be a tough one.
"I always said she's one of the most talented players in the world. She's doing an amazing year. It's nice seeing all these players that we were like a few years ago outside the Top 100 now being Top 10, Top 20, fighting for the finals. It's amazing. I'm super happy and I'm happy that I can play her."