Viktoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko will face each other in the Indian Wells semifinals on Friday night.
Azarenka has had a good year overall, but struggled to break through in the latter stages of tournaments, often losing in the quarters or semis, so a win today would see her advance to her first final of 2021. It would not be a surprise. The savvy veteran played some marvelous tennis over the past week, defeating Linette, Kvitova, Sasnovich and Pegula without dropping a set. She was exceptional in her quarterfinal clash with Pegula.
We have seen some great tennis from the attacking minded Jelena Ostapenko as well here in Indian Wells. The Latvian got past Hsieh, Putintseva (lost set), Swiatek and Rogers (lost set). He third round win against Swiatek was an impressive upset, while in the QF’s against Shelby Rogers she came back from the dead (1-3 0-40 down in the decider) to reach this stage.
Azarenka leads the H2H 1-0, a straight set win at the 2019 French Open, so this will be the first meeting on hard courts.
The mercurial Ostapenko has definitely played well so far, but she had some ups and downs as well. She was unstoppable when her blistering attacks were painting the lines, but when her level dipped (and it did, multiple times), opponents took advantage, and Rogers almost punished her in the quarters.
I think Azarenka will know how to get the Latvian out of rhythmn and will claim victory here. She’s just so smart and experienced, and has such a high tennis IQ. She knows what to expect from Ostapenko and has the tools (particularly defensively) to derail her, especially on these slow Indian Wells courts, which will give Vika more time, making it much harder for Ostapenko to hit winners.
I’ve been blown away by how well Azarenka played against Pegula in the quarters and how she dismantled an excellent, in form player. I expect more of the same today, and I can even see her going all the way and winning this title.
Look for Vika to capitalize every time Ostapenko’s level dips, and also force her to have those dips. I see just one way for Ostapenko to win this, and that is to play one of the best matches of her life, hitting the lines regularly from start to finish. Are the chances for that to happen as high as 40%, as the odds suggest? I don’t think so. Prediction: Viktoria Azarenka – Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 6-4.