World No. 15 Elena Vesnina is through to her first semifinal at the BNP Paribas Open after dismissing No. 12 seed Venus Williams 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 under the lights of Stadium 1 on Thursday evening.
The Russian squandered three match points on the Williams’ racket in the eighth game of the third set, but closed out the two-hour, 11-minute contest in the next game. She clawed back from 0/40 and swatted away three more break opportunities before clinching the victory with a winner into the open court.
“It was a very heartbreaking match," said Vesnina. "I know everyone was cheering for Venus. I don’t know how I won that game from 0-40, because she was fighting. She was fighting and fighting every game."
This is the 30-year-old’s first semifinal at the Premier Mandatory level. She will face Kristina Mladenovic of France for a place in Sunday’s final, against whom she has a 2-0 head-to-head record.
Watch Vesnina Vs. Williams Highlights
Earlier in the day, Mladenovic defeated 2011 BNP Paribas Open Caroline Wozniacki in their quarterfinal and now owns 16-5 record on the season. This run includes includes her first title, in St. Petersburg, and a runner-up finish in Acapulco.
"Mladenovic is on fire, but so am I," Vesnina said on court with a smile.
"I need to think how I need to play against her, because I have couple of thoughts on my mind," said Vesnina. "[Mladenovic's] a great doubles player, as well. She's kind of player on all the court. She can come into the net. She's using the dropshots, slices.
"So it's going to be difficult match, but on the other hand, it's very exciting to play the semifinal match here in Indian Wells."
Vesnina has lifted two doubles crowns in the Coachella Valley, with Sania Mirza in 2011 and Ekaterina Makarova in 2013.
The 36-year-old Williams was bidding for her third semifinal appearance in the desert. "It's never fun to fall short," said Williams in her post-match press conference. "But, you know, I gave my all."