Kuznetsova-Pliskova clash highlights Indian Wells women's semifinals

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Karolina Pliskova and Svetlana Kuznetsova have split their two matches. (AP)

Kristina Mladenovic [28] vs. Elena Vesnina [14]

This, it’s safe to say, isn’t the semifinal that tournament officials were hoping to see, and the players in it may not be familiar to many of the people in the crowd at Indian Wells. But the spots have been properly earned. Vesnina, who is ranked near her career-high at No. 15, is coming off wins over Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams. Mladenovic, who has steadily advanced to No. 26 in the rankings and reached the final in Acapulco last week, knocked off Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki this week. The 30-year-old Russian is 2-0 against the 23-year-old Frenchwoman, but they haven’t played since 2015. While she’s not ranked as high, Mladenovic has made more progress in that time, and as she continues to get her powerful game under control, seems poised to make a leap into the Top 10 before too long. Reaching an Indian Wells final would be a big step in that direction. Winner: Mladenovic

Karolina Pliskova [3] vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova [8]

Like Jack Sock on the men’s side, Pliskova has been a survivor in Indian Wells. She should have lost her opener to Monica Puig, but was given a reprieve by the Puerto Rican. And in the quarters she edged Garbiñe Muguruza in two tiebreakers. Kuznetsova, meanwhile, has quietly cruised through her quarter while dropping just one set. There’s a good chance she’ll drop at least one more in this semi. The No. 3-ranked Czech and the No. 8-ranked Russian have split their two matches: Pliskova won in three sets in Cincinnati last year, and Kuznetsova returned the favor 8-6 in a third-set tiebreaker at the WTA Championships in Singapore. The Serena-less women’s draw, which has been overshadowed this week by the men’s Quarter of Death, could use a rematch that good.  So far this year, Pliskova has talked and played with more ambition and belief; Kuznetsova will present a test of both. Winner: Pliskova

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