Elena Vesnina defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Open in an all-Russian final.
Vesnina had never advanced beyond the third round in singles, although she has won the doubles title at the desert tournament three times. She beat No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber and No. 12 Venus Williams on her way to the final, the biggest of her career at age 30. Kuznetsova lost in the final for the time. She was runner-up in 2007 and 2008.
At age 31, Kuznetsova was the fifth-oldest women to reach the final. But the two-time major champion struggled playing with the lead as the No. 8 seed in front of hundreds of empty seats.
“I didn’t feel good today because she was very aggressive and I was a little bit out of my game,” Kuznetsova said. “I couldn’t figure out a lot the wind and stuff like that. But still, I give a lot of credit to her because she was aggressive.”
Kuznetsova led 4-2 in the third before 14th-seeded Vesnina broke her twice in sweeping the final four games of the match.
Kuznetsova served one of her nine aces to lead 4-1 in the second, prompting Vesnina to bring out her coach-father Sergey Vesnin for a chat. It worked.
Vesnina reeled off four straight games to lead 5-4. Her forehand error led to Kuznetsova’s break in the 10th game that tied it 5-all. But Vesnina broke back and served out the set 7-5.
Kuznetsova had luck on her side early, winning the first set on a net cord in the tiebreaker. She gave the traditional wave acknowledging her good fortune to Vesnina, who had blown leads of 2-0 and 4-2.
Vesnina had 46 winners and 49 unforced errors. She successfully gambled at the net, winning 24 of 32 points during the three-hour match.
“I tried my best and she won because she was more aggressive,” Kuznetsova said. “I was too passive. That’s it. Too much behind and didn’t serve well.”
Vesnina earned $1,175,505 for her third career singles title and will move up two spots to a career-high No. 13 in the world rankings on Monday. The only other all-Russian women’s final was in 2006, when Maria Sharapova beat Elena Dementieva.