INDIAN WELLS: A handful of tennis superstars skipped the coronavirus-delayed BNP Paribas Open. A rash of upsets sent other big names packing, too. Left standing at the end as champions were two players ranked outside the Top 25.
Cameron Norrie beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Sunday, giving the Masters 1000 tournament its first men’s winner ranked outside of the Top 25 since 2010 while he became the first Briton to win the title at Indian Wells.
Earlier in the day, the tournament crowned its first female champion from Spain when Paula Badosa edged Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 7-6 (7-2) in a thriller to claim the biggest title of her career.
Paula Badosa of Spain edged Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), becoming just the third woman to win in her Indian Wells debut.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams were among those skipping the tournament that was delayed two-and-half years because of the coronavirus. The two-week event was hit with a rash of upsets, including top seeds Daniil Medvedev and Karolina Pliskova.
That cleared the way for the up-and-coming Norrie and Badosa to claim the biggest titles of their young careers. They earned $1.2 million each.
“What can I say? Obviously, I’m so happy. It’s my biggest title so I can’t really describe it right now,” said Norrie, who was playing in his sixth final of his breakout year.
Britain’s Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski have all played in the men’s finals at Indian Wells but finished runner-up.
Norrie, ranked 26th, had the only two breaks of the final set and won when Basilashvili’s backhand sailed long on match point. Basilashvili, ranked 36th, was the first player from the former Soviet republic of Georgia to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Norrie, Ivan Ljubicic in 2019, Alex Corretja in 2000 and Jim Courier in 1991 all were ranked 26th won the title while ranked outside the Top 25 since the tournament moved to Indian Wells in 1987. Larry Stefanki was ranked 143rd when he won in 1985 at nearby La Quinta.
Badosa joined Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the title in her first appearance. It was Badosa’s second title of her career, having won in Belgrade earlier this year.
“Every morning I wake up and my dream is to win a tournament like this,” Badosa, who had not lost a set since her first match of the tournament, said. “I have to keep working hard and always believe. The key is to enjoy the journey.”
Two-time champion Azarenka was two points from winning the tournament for a third time and serving at 5-4 in the decider when her game began to unravel behind a series of uncharacteristic errors.
Badosa took advantage of the shift in momentum and held her nerve in the final tiebreaker, firing a crosscourt forehand winner on championship point and falling to the court in joy at the end of the more than three-hour battle.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2021