It’s finals day in the Californian desert. The last WTA 1000 level event of this season will end in style as Paula Badosa takes on Victoria Azarenka in Sunday’s championship match at the WTA Indian Wells Open in what should be an exciting matchup between two players with vastly different levels of experience.
Victoria Azarenka has 21 WTA singles titles to her name, including two Grand Slams and ten 1000 level titles. Paula Badosa will be competing in just her second career final; the Spaniard won her sole final via retirement earlier this year at a 250 level event in Belgrade. Experience is on Azarenka’s side, but Badosa is one of the most improved players on tour in 2021 and will be keen to impress in the biggest match of her career. Who will come out on top?
WTA Indian Wells Final Prediction
Paula Badosa vs Victoria Azarenka
Head-to-head: first meeting
Azarenka survived an almighty battle to reach her third career final in Indian Wells. A 3-6 6-3 7-5 victory over Jelena Ostapenko from a set and a break down, a typically gritty victory from the two-time former champion at this event. Azarenka’s experience was key in getting over the line over the fiery Latvian. The Belarusian hasn’t had the best season by her own lofty standards, but she now has a chance to end the year on a high. The 32-year-old hadn’t dropped a set this tournament until the semifinal stage, straight set wins over Magda Linette (7-5 3-0 Ret.), Petra Kvitova (7-5 6-4), Aliaksandra Sasnovich (6-3 6-4) and Jessica Pegula (6-4 6-2).
Paula Badosa will break into the top 20 for the first time thanks to her run to the final in Indian Wells, #17 if she comes up short, #11 if she wins. The 23-year-old seems to be getting stronger and stronger throughout the tournament. The Spaniard dropped her only set of the event in a 6-4 2-6 6-2 opening round win against Dayana Yastremska. Four consecutive straight set wins over quality opponents followed: 6-2 6-2 over Cori Gauff, a 6-1 7-5 upset of the third seeded Barbora Krejcikova, 6-4 7-5 victory against Angelique Kerber. Badosa booked her spot in the biggest final of her career thanks to a 6-3 6-3 win over Ons Jabeur.
Badosa has generally played at a higher level this year, but can she outlast a champion like Azarenka in the biggest match of her career? Probably not. Badosa’s steadiness and consistency have been the hallmarks of her game this tournament, but that’s probably not going to be enough on this occasion. Azarenka can match Badosa in most departments; the pair are playing at a similar level coming into the final. But Azarenka is slightly more versatile because of her ability at the net and willingness to come forward. Crucially, Azarenka is also vastly more experienced and, seemingly, mentally tougher. Badosa looked shaky trying to close out her last couple of matches, any shakiness will be exploited by Azarenka. Expect Azarenka to be too strong when the going gets tough.
Prediction: Azarenka in 3
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