INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - 2013 BNP Paribas Open doubles champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina nabbed the last spot in this year's semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Lara Arruabarrena and Arantxa Parra Santonja.
The Russians navigated some blustery conditions on Stadium 3 to earn early breaks in each set before serving out in just over an hour.
"We saw the matches that happened earlier, and everyone was struggling in the wind," Vesnina told me after the match. "It’s honestly very difficult to play in these conditions, so we’re really happy that we played clean, consistently. We didn’t lose serve the whole match, and that’s very important.
"The Spanish are a tough team, and it’s very interesting, because in our first match we played against Australians, then two Belarusians, and now Spaniards. It’s like the Olympics! We’re just really happy to be back in the semifinals."
Defending champion in singles, Vesnina is yet to drop a set in the doubles event as she moves within two matches of a fifth Indian Wells crown overall.
Awaiting Makarova and Vesnina in the final four is a rematch of January's Australian Open final against Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, which the French/Hungarian duo won in straight sets.
"They play well together, and they’re just getting back together after a split. It’s always tricky when a team hasn’t played in some time, people forget about them, and then they come together again and the chemistry is there right away. They really play well and beat some great teams in Melbourne. In the final, they went for their shots and they served amazingly.
"I think we were a bit unlucky in the first set of that match, because I thought we had that under control. But that’s tennis, and they’re both great players in singles and doubles. It’s going to be a good match, good semifinals, and we’re looking for revenge of course!"
Ranked just behind the current doubles No.1 Latisha Chan and the recently retired Martina Hingis, the top seeds are in pole position to at long last ascend to the top of the women's doubles rankings later this spring, a moment that would be a testament to the three-time Grand Slam champions' consistent dominance in the discipline for the last five years.
"The main secret to our success is that we know we’re in the same boat," Vesnina explained. "We know we’ve been doing the same thing for many years. If we were to start arguing with each other, or say who is better, who is strong, or blaming one another for losses, we would have never lasted. We never talk or even think about those kinds of things. We lose together, we win together.
"I would say I’m the leader of the team, and Katya is ok with that. She’s the one who listens to what I say, and is so precise with her shots. We support each other off the court, as well. We watch each others’ matches and follow our careers. We’re good friends off the court; I can’t say we’re best friends, but we’re close, and our families are friends. We always enjoy our time together at the tournaments we play."