A handful of tennis superstars have skipped the coronavirus-delayed BNP Paribas Open. A wave of upheaval has sent other big names as well. Remained standing at the end as champions, two players ranked outside the Top 25.
Britain’s Cameron Norrie defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Sunday, giving the tournament its first male winner outside the Top 25 since 2010.
Spain’s Paula Badosa edged Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2), becoming the third woman to win on her Indian Wells debut.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams were among those who skipped the tournament which was delayed by 2.5 years due to the coronavirus. The two-week event was hit by a wave of upheaval, including top seeds Daniil Medvedev and Karolina Pliskova.
This allowed young Norrie and Badosa to win the biggest titles of their young careers. They won $ 1.2 million each.
“Obviously it was quite a miracle that all the top players lost,” said Norrie. “When I looked at the four semi-finalists, hmm, that’s a good opportunity here.”
Norrie, ranked 26th, had the only two breaks of the final set and won when Basilashvili’s backhand sailed long on match point. Basilashvili, ranked 36, was the first player from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Norrie, Ivan Ljubicic in 2019, Alex Corretja in 2000 and Jim Courier in 1991 _ all ranked 26th _ won the title as they have fallen outside the Top 25 since the tournament moved to Indian Wells in 1987. Larry Stefanki was ranked 143rd when he won in 1985 at neighboring La Quinta.
Badosa joined Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the title in her first appearance. It was Badosa’s second title in his career, after winning in Belgrade earlier this year.
Norrie handled Basilashvili’s power on the baseline by working the angles. He broke the Georgian in love on Basilashvili’s forehand error to win the second set.
“It’s tough, it doesn’t really give you a beat,” Norrie said. “I was able to put my foot in the door, to be able to hang around, to cause problems in the third set.”
Norrie was leading a 2-0 second-half break when he pushed back a rare breaking point on his serve for a 3-0 lead. Basilashvili won their only game with a cross forehand on Norrie’s drop shot to lead 3-1. Norrie has won the last three games to win the game in just under two hours.
Basilashivili said he had “health issues” in the third set.
“I was very tight. I won’t say what it is, but I didn’t feel good, “he said.” I had nothing left. “
Badosa and Azarenka struggled for over three hours, exchanging consecutive duty breaks five times. The last time Azarenka broke for a 5-4 lead in the third, and Badosa broke back for a tie of 5 at all.
“We were both going for our shots, really pushing each other to the max,” Azarenka said.
Badosa missed a setback that allowed Azarenka to hold on to 6-everything.
Badosa dominated the tiebreaker, leading 6-2. Azarenka threw a forehand into the net to give Badosa a match point.
Badosa landed a forehand, then collapsed at the baseline. She lay face down, crying and shaking, before getting up. Azarenka rounded the net and hugged the 23-year-old Spaniard.
Azarenka, a two-time major champion and former top player, was only chasing her second title since 2016. She last won in 2020 in Cincinnati. The 32-year-old Belarusian failed in her bid to become the first woman to win Indian Wells three times, having won the title in 2012 and 2016.
Azarenka’s season was interrupted by injuries and she made early outings in Grand Slam events. His best result was reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros.
“This year has been a bit difficult,” she said, “but to end on a strong note, not necessarily with the outcome I wanted but with the progress I wanted to strive for, it’s really positive.”
In the first set tiebreaker, Badosa had a 4-0, 5-3 lead. Azarenka equalized 5 points on Badosa’s forehand. Azarenka missed a backhand to give Badosa a set point and the Spaniard conceded a winning backhand to win the set.
Badosa Elle beat fifth seed Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round, 15th Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals and 14th Ons Jabeur in the semi-finals _ all in straight sets _ to reach the final.
“The first thing I learned this week is that nothing is impossible,” Badosa said.
Badosa entered the tournament ranked 27th in the world; a year ago she was 87th. Badosa is expected to climb to 13th place, his career best record, in Monday’s WTA Tour standings.
The combined event of the ATP and WTA tours was one of the first major sporting events canceled in March 2020 when the coronavirus took hold in the United States. It will return to its usual March slot next year.