WATCH: Ostapenko booked a blockbuster semifinal with Victoria Azarenka after winning a titanic three-setter over Shelby Rogers.

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The first semifinal is set at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open and a pair of wily Grand Slam champions will face off to reach what would be their biggest final of the season as Victoria Azarenka meets Jelena Ostapenko for only the second time.

To get there, each had to dispatch an in-form American in Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers, respectively. With a combined three major titles between them, Azarenka and Ostapenko were ultimately up for the task as they booked a rematch of a 2019 Roland Garros first round that won’t lack for star power in the California desert.

Here’s how they did it:

Azarenka twice lifted the BNP Paribas Open trophy, most recently in 2016.

Azarenka twice lifted the BNP Paribas Open trophy, most recently in 2016. 

[27] Victoria Azarenka def. [19] Jessica Pegula, 6-4, 6-2

A two-time Indian Wells winner, Azarenka should have come in as the clear favorite to defeat the last-eight debutante on Wednesday afternoon.

Au contraire, would mutter those who’ve watched Pegula surge up the rankings this season—and, incidentally, speak French. The 27-year-old is in the midst of a career renaissance that began in earnest at the Australian Open, where she knocked out an ailing Azarenka en route to her maiden major quarterfinal.

Pegula largely maintained that level throughout the season—particularly on hard courts—with a semifinal finish in Montréal and seven total Top 10 wins in 2021.

Azarenka, by contrast, has only just rounded back into form after a tumultuous 10 months that saw her bow out before the quarterfinals of all four majors this season despite ending 2020 with a first major final in seven years at the US Open.

“The results are coming,” she reassured after the match, at one point donning aviator sunglasses. “That's the measure, right? How else are you going to measure your progress? In tennis unfortunately it's all by the results, especially that measure from the outside. For yourself, you can put little goals and try to kind of climb that ladder. At the end of the you’re your results is going to determine how well you performed, which sometimes can be tricky.”

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The best moments are invisible moments I will say, the ones that nobody sees and you overcome. I will say that those couple moments in my life happened where I was super proud of myself which had nothing to do with tennis results. Victoria Azarenka

Edging past rival Petra Kvitova in the third round and countrywoman Aliaksandra Sasnovich to reach the quarters, the former world No. 1 nonetheless found herself up against a tough opponent in Pegula, who pushed her to three sets on grass in their second meeting on grass in Berlin.

Down an early break in the twilight of Court 1, Azarenka reeled off six of the next nine games to lead Pegula by a set and a break, and though Pegula quickly evened the contast at the start of the second, a marathon fifth game proved pivotal.

Battling through seven deuces, Azarenka broke on her fifth break opportunity of the game—when Pegula netted a backhand—and never looked back, outrallying the American one last time to advance in just over 90 minutes.

“I'm not the type of person who likes to really step back and look back because I still feel like I'm in my journey,” she mused in her post-match presser. “I don't necessarily reassess, kind of take from my old experiences: ‘Oh, that's how it felt.’ I don't necessarily think you remember the whole picture. It's more about certain selective memories that you pick out.

“The best moments are invisible moments I will say, the ones that nobody sees and you overcome. I will say that those couple moments in my life happened where I was super proud of myself which had nothing to do with tennis results.”

Down a break in the deciding set, Ostapenko reeled off the final five games to book the Azarenka clash.

Down a break in the deciding set, Ostapenko reeled off the final five games to book the Azarenka clash.

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[24] Jelena Ostapenko def. Shelby Rogers 6-4, 4-6 6-3

Conversely, there are seemingly very few moments involving Jelena Ostapenko that one would consider invisible. Since capturing the 2017 French Open title, the enigmatic Latvian has been very much in the public eye as she navigates the almost impossible challenge of playing her high-octane game at a consistent pace.

Far from the red clay where she first achieved major glory, Ostapenko has tended to play her best on quicker surfaces in the subsequent four years, winning her fourth career title on grass in Eastbourne and finishing runner-up on the indoor hard courts of Luxembourg earlier this month.

Making her fourth Indian Wells appearance, few would have tagged the 24-year-old as an obvious pick to go deep on the desert: the slower hard courts have become all but anathema to her hyper-aggressive style.

Still, when Ostapenko is at her world-beating best, there are few who can conquer her. Playing with unbridled joy through four matches, she blitzed the tricky Hsieh Su-Wei and fellow former French Open champ Iga Swiatek in straight sets to put herself in the last eight against Rogers, who was celebrating both her 29th birthday and an epic win over US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez on Tuesday.

Rogers had no answers for Ostapenko early on as the No. 24 seed struck 15 winners in six games to race ahead 5-1. The match considerably tightened from there as both women struggled to hold serve through the next set and a half.

It was a tough year for me but I feel like my tennis is getting better and more consistent. I’m glad, even when I was losing 3-1, I kept fighting from start to finish. Jelena Ostapenko

“I was playing a little bit against myself because I was playing up and down,” a delighted Ostapenko explained on court in what could easily be a summary of her young career. “I feel like I could have finished in two sets but I missed some balls and it’s tough to play against her.”

With the American crowd at her back, Rogers appeared on the verge of victory when she took a 0-40 lead at 3-1 in the decider. Ostapenko, ostensibly beaten down by fatigue, an unforgiving Hawkeye Live, and a brutal overhead miss three games prior, dug in her heels from there. Finding one last vein of that golden form, she swept the final five games to win in two hours and 15 minutes flat.

Though a total 46 errors gave her fits, her commitment to aggression won the day as 51 winners helped her into her biggest semifinal since Wimbledon 2018.

“It was a tough year for me but I feel like my tennis is getting better and more consistent. I’m glad, even when I was losing 3-1, I kept fighting from start to finish.”