After their semifinal wins Friday night in Indian Wells, both Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka spoke of the mental toughness it has taken them to get this far. 

"I'm believing every point," Badosa said. "Every day I'm working very hard as well."

Azarenka had a more holistic assessment to her season. 

"I feel like right now I'm a bit more settled with a bit more structure, a little bit more discipline, which makes it not necessarily easier, but a bit clearer what I need to do," she said.

This year's Indian Wells finalists have had their shares of ups and downs, but both are peaking at the right moment, which should make for one competitive final Sunday in the California desert.  

So who has the advantage in the championship match of the final WTA 1000-level event of the year? We break it down:  

Advantage, Badosa

When No.21 seed Paula Badosa arrived in Indian Wells, some of the wind had been taken out of the sails of her breakthrough season.

There had been an abrupt split from coach Javier Marti, whom she had credited for her rise after the Tokyo Olympic Games. Shoulder issues had beset her through August and September. She lost in the second round in three of her four tournaments between the Olympics and Indian Wells - to Rebecca Marino in Montréal, Varvara Gracheva at the US Open and Anett Kontaveit in Ostrava.

After navigating a fiendish draw to reach her biggest career final, it's fair to say that Badosa is back - and has showed she can excel without Marti by her side. Her opposition has comprised the full spectrum of challenges, and she's passed each test with flying colours - dropping only one set, to Dayana Yastremska in her opener.

That was followed by a 54-minute lopsided win against Coco Gauff in the American teenager's favoured environment of a U.S. night session followed by a pair of straight-sets defeats of Grand Slam champions Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber. And then, against new Top 10 entrant Ons Jabeur in the semifinals, finding all the answers to the Tunisian's tricks.

Badosa demonstrated her mental toughness in her past three matches. Krejcikova, Kerber and Jabeur all played their best tennis with their backs to the wall, saving match points and threatening comebacks. Badosa held her nerve and closed each one out in straight sets.

Against two-time Indian Wells champion Victoria Azarenka in the final, Badosa will have the advantage of being a somewhat unknown quantity.

"I've never played against Paula," Azarenka said after her semifinal win. "I've never really practiced against her. That would be something, a new challenge for me to even understand her ball, her pace."

Badosa, by contrast, has grown up watching the Belarusian play big finals: "I know how she's playing," she said.

Badosa won her only previous WTA final, in Belgrade in May, via retirement over Ana Konjuh. This time around, she will be eager to get a taste of closing out a championship point. -- Alex Macpherson

Advantage, Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka will be the first to tell you that things don't always got as planned. The former World No.1 looked poised for a big 2021 season after her run to the Cincinnati title and US Open final last summer.

Then the two-time Australian Open champion landed in hard quarantine in Melbourne and spent the next eight months trying to find her way. Physically, the 32-year-old champion found her body letting her down. By the time Wimbledon rolled around, she had already been forced to give four walkovers. Unable to put in the work needed to breed confidence, Azarenka struggled to hold leads and close out matches throughout the season. Coming into Indian Wells, she was just 2-4 against Top 20 opposition this season.

Confronted with her own mortality, Azarenka decided it was time to put ego aside and accept that it was time to start adjusting her game.

"I'm looking for things that I can implement that will make it a bit easier for me,” she said. “I'm also not in the beginning of my career to grind every match. It's not necessarily tougher physically, but from one match to another it adds up. I'm looking how I can be more efficient as a player."

Efficiency was the name of the game in Indian Wells. She rolled to the semifinals without losing a set, beating Magda Linette, Petra Kvitova, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Jessica Pegula.

“I think my season has been tricky," Azarenka said. "There were parts where I physically couldn't necessarily bring that extra level, extra fight, which was very frustrating. Then there were parts where I felt that I was looking for something to add, and I didn't necessarily know what it was. It was a lot of searching in the season, a lot of stepping into unknown.”

But no matter how much the 27th-seeded Azarenka tweaks her game, the one thing that will never change is her fight, which was on full display in her 3-6, 6-3 7-5 win over Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals. On a night the Latvian Ostapenko struck nearly 50 winners and lead by a set and a break, Azarenka's tactical acuity and physicality knocked Ostapenko off her game.

Azarenka's Indian Wells fortnight has been a riveting showcase for precisely what makes the two-time major champion such a feared opponent.

"I'm going to fight until the end,” she said. “If you’re gonna beat me, you have to beat me all the way." -- Courtney Nguyen