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Indian Wells: Badosa, Norrie capture biggest career titles

  • Matt Trollope

Paula Badosa captured the biggest title of her burgeoning career with an epic triumph over Victoria Azarenka in Sunday’s Indian Wells final. 

Badosa outlasted the two-time major champion after more than three hours on court, winning 7-6(5) 2-6 7-6(2).

Britain's Cameron Norrie then defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6 6-4 6-1 to emulate Badosa in winning his biggest-ever title in his first ATP Masters final.

Two games from defeat at 6-3 4-4, Norrie reeled off eight straight points to wrench the second set off the powerful Georgian before dominating the third against his increasingly error-prone opponent.

Cameron Norrie celebrates with the trophy after beating Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets in the Indian Wells final. (Getty Images)

Badosa breaks through in desert

Azarenka, the 2012 and 2016 champion in the Californian desert, served for the match and was two points away from becoming the first female player to ever win three singles titles at Indian Wells.

But a succession of errors allowed Badosa back into the match, and the Spaniard went on to dominate the deciding tiebreak.

"I remember when I was 14, 15 years old, I was seeing you winning Grand Slams, and I remember saying to my coach, I hope one day I can play like her," said Badosa, who, incredibly, was playing in the main draw at Indian Wells for the first time.

"So for me it's amazing, thank you for inspiring me so much. Athletes and women like you, I wouldn't be here without you."

Badosa wins her second title of the year -- she won her maiden WTA title on clay at the 250-level event in Belgrade in May -- and she is projected to vault from No.27 to a career-high of world No.13. 

She was ranked as low as 73rd in March but has since gone on to build a win-loss record of 41-15 in 2021. 

Badosa’s path through the draw at Indian Wells saw her cut down a succession of top-20 opponents; she beat teen talent Coco Gauff, Grand Slam champions Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber, and new top-10 star Ons Jabeur all without dropping a set.

And she snatched the first in Sunday’s final from Azarenka, pipping the Belarusian in a tense, closely-fought stanza lasting one hour and 19 minutes.

Azarenka rebounded strongly in the second, racing ahead 3-0 as Badosa’s focus and intensity dropped.

She also looked the more likely to prevail in the third; she reeled Badosa back in after the Spaniard scored an early break, and broke again in the ninth game after Badosa misfired several times from the baseline from 40-15 up. 

Azarenka served for the title and led 30-0, but her game went awry the same way Badosa’s did a game earlier.

Back in the match, Badosa hung with Azarenka despite her comparative inexperience, and was the more steady, powerful and inspired player in the closing stages. 

She fired a final forehand winner, her 44th winner of the match, to end a memorable encounter.

"The first thing that I've learned this week is that nothing is impossible. If you fight, if you work, after all these years, you can achieve anything," Badosa said.

"It was a really tough match. I think it was like a roller coaster mentally, emotionally. It was my first final in a 1000. I had a lot of emotions.

"It was amazing. I'm still a little bit in shock that what happened right now. But in that moment I was super excited and super proud of what I did after three hours fighting on court."

Norrie continues to climb

Following Badosa onto court was Norrie, who, like the Spaniard, has enjoyed a brilliant season.

The left-hander was contesting his sixth final of 2021, having broken through for his first ATP title in Los Cabos in July.

But none of those previous five finals were at ATP Masters level, and the magnitude of the occasion perhaps showed early as Norrie was frequently pushed back and outhit by the aggressive Basilashvili in the first set.

Norrie, however, worked his way back into the contest and played two brilliant winners for 0-30 as Basilashvili was serving to stay in the set, a swing that seemed to break his spirit.

Unforced errors then flowed, Norrie snatched the second set, and from there it was a one-sided affair.

Norrie cruised to his 51st match-win of the season, becoming the first British singles champion at the prestigious event. 

"What an incredible week I've had here," said the 26-year-old, who is projected to rise to a career-best ranking of No.16.

"It was just a strange match. It was over quite quickly, and then the last kind of set I was expecting it to be longer. He made a couple errors towards the end.

"I still don't really know what I'm experiencing. It was an amazing couple weeks and I'm so happy with how I treated all the occasions, all the big moments, all the matches.

"I'm so happy, so pleased to win my biggest title."

Norrie moves to 10th place in the race to the ATP Finals, while Badosa improves to eighth spot in the equivalent WTA race.

The WTA and ATP Finals, in Guadalajara and Turin respectively, will take place in mid-November.