Badosa’s Title Defence Meets Fernandez Challenge; Azarenka, Kvitova Exit

March 14 (Reuters) – Reigning champion Paula Badosa outlasted friend and fellow Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6(4) 6-1 at Indian Wells on Monday to set up a mouth-watering fourth round clash against U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.

After edging Sorribes Tormo in the tiebreaker during an 82-minute opening set, Badosa cantered through the second to remain on course to become the first woman to defend the Indian Wells title since Martina Navratilova won in 1990 and 1991.

Next up for world number, seven Badosa will be Canadian 19-year-old Fernandez, who arrived at the Californian desert after defending her WTA title in Monterrey, Mexico.

Fernandez, who went down to Emma Raducanu in last year’s final at Flushing Meadows, defeated American Shelby Rogers 6-1 3-6 6-3 to close out Monday evening’s action at the WTA 1000 event at Indian Wells.

“It will be a very tough one. She’s the defending champion. She has a lot of good matches under her belt. I’m very excited to play against her,” Fernandez told reporters.

“I’ll just try to focus on my game and see what my dad (coach) has in store for me to execute.”

Earlier in the day, former major champions Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova were ousted in the third round.

Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open last year, fired off five aces in a strong service display to make light work of Czech Kvitova 6-3 6-0.

The world number six won all of her first-serve points in the first set and dropped just one in the second, as Kvitova struggled with her serve, producing five double-faults across the 66-minute affair in California.

Two-times Wimbledon winner Kvitova ceded breakpoint in the eighth game of the first set and never regained her composure, as Sakkari fended off two breaks to close out the frame and ran away with the match in the second set.

It was the second time that Sakkari has reached the round of 16 at tennis’ unofficial “fifth major,” after she reached the fourth round in 2018.

Two-time winner and 13th seed Azarenka fell to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 6-3 6-4 after a malfunctioning serve saw her produce eight double faults.

An in-form Rybakina produced a pristine first set, launching four aces without dropping a single first-serve point to claim the early momentum.

With her right shoulder heavily taped and a sleeve placed on her right arm, two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka grimaced, crouched down on the court, and wept after a double fault in the fifth game of the second set.

That prompted the chair umpire to approach Azarenka to ask if she needed medical attention.

Azarenka, who lost in the final last year to Badosa, apologized and continued but Rybakina converted the critical breakpoint in the seventh game of the second set.

Elsewhere on the women’s side, Czech Marketa Vondrousova knocked out Estonian fourth seed Anett Kontaveit 3-7 7-5 7-6(5).

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