Every week Baseline will select a “Player of the Week.” That athlete may not always win the highest category tournament that week, but perform the best compared to their recent playing history.
A teenage Elena Vesnina made her first trip to the United States over a decade ago, hoping to enter the qualifying tournament of what was then the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells. Upon her arrival, the young Russian, who was ranked outside of the Top 200 at the time, was in awe of all of the courts and player-friendly facilities in the desert.
“I was, like, ‘Whoa, I really, really want to play this tournament,’” Vesnina said after her semifinal win against Kristina Mladenovic this week. “I was dreaming just to get here, to be honest, next year, just to play here. I was thinking I want to play well in singles [in the future], but the result was not here. In doubles I won three times title here, and singles it was just not going this way.”
So it was only fitting that even though she didn’t get into that draw, Vesnina’s biggest victory to date came in Indian Wells. The 14th-seed beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in a three-hour-classic to win her first WTA Premier Mandatory Event on Sunday. She had never reached the semifinals at that level before.
“I have so much feelings right now inside of me,” Vesnina said after her 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 victory in the final . “I love Indian Wells, and now I love it even more.”
She should after a fortnight during which she beat three Grand Slam champions in world No.2-ranked Angelique Kerber, seven-time major winner Venus Williams and Kuznetsova.
It was a complete turnaround for Vesnina, who lost in the first round of qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open last year to Julia Boserup, then ranked No. 179.
This year, Vesnina played some of the best tennis of her life to earn herself a new career-high ranking of No. 13.
Back during Vesnina’s first trip to both the United States and Indian Wells, she said that she stayed “with a really nice old lady,” who grew fruits in her garden. This week, the Russian bore the fruits of her own labor.