Elena Vesnina Reaches BNP Paribas Open Final

© Billie Weiss/BNP Paribas Open

Russia’s Elena Vesnina is into her first Premier Mandatory final after a tough showing against Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4 at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday.

This is the 30-year-old first appearance in a final since Charleston last season (l. to Stephens), and the biggest final of her career on the WTA Tour. The 2016 Wimbledon semifinalist awaits the winner of Friday evening’s second semifinal between No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and two-time finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Vesnina upset World No. 2 Angelique Kerber in the Round of 16 before upsetting Venus Williams in a three-set quarterfinal thriller.

The World No. 15 raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, breaking her French opponent twice before letting her onto the scoreboard. Mladenovic would break back in the seventh game, but it would be too late to stage a fightback.

Mladenovic, who upset 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, would drop two consecutive services games to open the second set, and never recovered from the deficit, though she raised her intensity against Vesnina. Mladenovic saved one match point while serving down 2-5, but Vesnina would close out the match on her own racket three games later.

“It got tight at the end because Kristina started to play so free,” said Vesnina after their one-hour, 42-minute tussle. “She started to put a lot of pressure on me. It’s tough to play the whole match like this, so i tried to play steady. I tried to focus point by point.”

Meanwhile, Mladenovic ends her Coachella Valley run with a 16-6 record, a run which includes her first career title, in St. Petersburg (d. Putintseva), and a runner-up finish in Acapulco (l. to Tsurenko). She was the first Frenchwoman to reach the BNP Paribas Open semifinals since Marion Bartoli reached the championship match in 2011.