Wawrinka wins Thiem thriller
17 Mar 2017 - 21:56
Indian Wells: Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka reached the semi-finals of the ATP Indian Wells Masters for the first time on Thursday with a hard-fought three-set victory over eighth-seeded Dominic Thiem.
Switzerland's third-seeded Wawrinka, playing his first tournament in the United States since his US Open victory last year, battled for two and a half hours to get past the rising Austrian star 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2) and book a meeting with Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.
Carreno Busta saved two match points en route to a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.
Wawrinka, 31, posted the 450th ATP win of his career and kept alive his bid for a second elite Masters title to go with his 2014 Monte Carlo triumph.
"The level was really high tonight," Wawrinka said. "I'm really happy the way I was playing, the way I found a way to win it.
"He's a strong player, really tough to play. I think in general we played both really high level, and the match was only one, two points."
After dropping his serve to open the match, Wawrinka broke Thiem twice to seize the first set, but Thiem grabbed the break he needed in the third game of the second to level the match.
After withstanding two break points in the first game of the third set, Wawrinka broke the Austrian en route to a quick 3-0 lead.
But Thiem, riding high after a victory in Rio de Janeiro this season, wasn't about to go quietly, winning the next three games. But Thiem was unable to convert a break chance in the ninth game, and he found himself facing a match point against his own serve in the 12th -- saving it with a booming forehand that Wawrinka could do nothing with as he forced a tiebreaker that Wawrinka controlled.
"I think in the third-set tiebreak I served really well," said Wawrinka, who also beat lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka in a third-set tiebreaker in the fourth round.
"I was really focused to not give him anything. And, again, it's a great win for me," he said.
Carreno Busta also battled through a tense third set in which Cuevas was unable to convert match points against the Spaniard's serve in both the 10th and 12th games as they took the contest to the tiebreaker. The drama was heightened by Cuevas's tumble on the first of those match points as he lunged for a backhand -- necessitating a mid-game medical timeout for treatment on his scraped right hand after Carreno Busta had polished off the point with an overhead.
Things stayed tight in the tiebreaker, Carreno Busta gaining a match point at 6-4 when Cuevas sent a backhand long, and sealing it with a backhand volley to reach the first Masters semi-final of his career.
"It's an amazing feeling," said Carreno Busta. "It's my first time in the semi-final in a Masters 1000, but here in Indian Wells is -- you know, for me, this tournament is one of the best, not just the Masters 1000, one of the best tournaments in the year and maybe one of the tougher, because all the people is playing here, all the top 20."
Carreno Busta avenged a semi-final loss to Cuevas in Sao Paulo this month, where the Uruguayan went on to win the title. They played doubles together in that tournament and in Rio de Janeiro this year where they won the title.
"I know how he plays, he knows how I play," Carreno Busta said. "So it was a tough match."
Meanwhile, Elena Vesnina denied Venus Williams another great escape, beating the seven-time Grand Slam champion 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells.
As Williams shook off a lethargic start and began to apply some pressure, Vesnina kept her poise, finishing off the contest on her fourth match point after fending off six break points in the final game.
She'll play Kristina Mladenovic for a place in the final after the French player's 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
"When I was up three-love in the first set she was missing some easy shots," Vesnina said of Williams.
"She looked tired and slow on the court. Then, all of a sudden, she started moving around, hitting great shots, winners from all over the place.