Jasmine Paolini of Italy pulled off a massive upset at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, ousting No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in their second-round clash.
With the 1-hour and 47-minute comeback victory, 46th-ranked Paolini earned the first Top 10 win of her career, after previously going 0-3 against Top 10 opposition.
Words from the winner: "I'm really happy," Paolini said in her post-match press conference. "I played an amazing match. I tried to be there, to be focused every point. Yeah, I'm so happy I beat Sabalenka. She's a great player.
"After the first set, I didn't expect to win the match, but I tried just to be there every point, to be just right there every point, to not think about the score. The score was 6-2 for her, I wasn't even close to her. But then point by point I started to believe it. I started to hit better the ball, deeper in the court."
On the rise: The career-best victory by ranking continues Paolini's steady climb towards the highest echelon of women's tennis. After never cracking the Top 90 through 2020, Paolini won her first Hologic WTA Tour singles title last year in Portoroz, then made her Top 50 debut after this year's Australian Open.
Paolini has now made the third round in both of her BNP Paribas Open main-draw appearances. She upset Elise Mertens to reach the same round last season before falling to Jessica Pegula.
For World No.3 Sabalenka, the highest-ranked player in the draw after the injury withdrawal by top seed Barbora Krejcikova, it is a second loss to Paolini in their three meetings.
Match moments: Despite early issues with double faults, Sabalenka was able to reel off four games in a row to take a quick one-set lead. However, Paolini struck back in the second set, leaping out to a 4-1, double-break advantage.
After clawing one of those breaks back, Sabalenka had a chance to get all the way back on serve with a break point at 4-3, but Paolini erased it with an ace. The Italian then converted her fourth break point of the following game to level the match at one set apiece.
The pair stayed on serve deep into the third set until Paolini made her move at 4-3, forcing backhand errors from Sabalenka to obtain the break. That was all Paolini needed, as she served out the match in the next game to grasp a breakthrough Top 10 victory.
Kvitova outlasts Sasnovich
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova survived a clash with a spirited opponent on Saturday, edging past Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open for the eighth time in her career.
No.27 seed Kvitova, a two-time Indian Wells quarterfinalist, had to pull through 2 hours and 32 minutes of tightly-contested tennis before picking up the win over World No.59 Sasnovich.
Sasnovich had an incredible run to the round of 16 at Indian Wells last year, where she beat Grand Slam champions Emma Raducanu and Simona Halep back-to-back.
Sasnovich also had beaten Kvitova in the first round of Wimbledon in 2018, but Kvitova was able to avenge that loss on the hard courts of Indian Wells this time and improve to 2-1 against Sasnovich.
Kvitova had a set point at 5-4 in the opener, and another at 6-5, but Sasnovich erased both of those opportunities, and swiped the hour-long set from 0-3 down in the tiebreak.
However, Kvitova grabbed early break leads in both the second and third sets, and was able to hold onto those for the duration of each as she powered to victory. Kvitova needed to save a break point in the final game, but at last converted her third match point with a forehand winner into the corner from her knees.
Sakkari sets showdown with Kvitova
No.6 seed Maria Sakkari defeated Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 7-5 to open her Indian Wells campaign. The win moved the Greek star to a 3-2 head-to-head lead against Siniakova and set up a marquee third-round match against another Czech star, Kvitova.
Sakkari has enjoyed a strong start to her 2022 campaign, following up a Round of 16 showing at the Australian Open by making her first final of the year in St. Petersburg and the semifinals of the first WTA 1000 of the season in Doha. Each time, she lost to the eventual champions, Anett Kontaveit and Iga Swiatek.
Against Siniakova, Sakkari rolled through the first set without facing a break point, earning a late break to 5-3 before closing out the set. Siniakova was able to break the Sakkari serve twice in the second set but continued to struggle to hold. Sakkari broke three times to seal the win after 1 hour and 35 minutes.
In other early results on Saturday, No.20 seed Elise Mertens eased past Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1, and No.30 seed Marketa Vondrousova dispatched Magdalena Frech 6-1, 6-3.