WATCH: Badosa made it through the 83-minute match without dropping serve and striking five aces.

If Paula Badosa has felt pressure to defend her BNP Paribas Open title, the No. 5 seed has done a good job of hiding it through four straight-set victories, easing back into the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 26 seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Not only did Kudermetova own a 3-0 head-to-head against Badosa—including two wins in 2021—but it was also the second time this week the Spaniard had to come up against someone she’d never beaten. Her title defense opened against Tereza Martincova, who had won all three of their previous meetings.

Badosa overcame that hurdle after a second-set tiebreaker and was equally efficient against Kudermetova, who scored one of the biggest wins over her career over Naomi Osaka in the third round.

“I even played [Kudermetova] here three years ago, like, 6-2, 6-2, so imagine how happy I am,” Badosa said on-court after the match. “As I always say every day, I think it’s the court that has a little bit of magic, or does some magic on me!”

Maybe magic, but the stats point to hard work, particularly off the second serve, which Badosa defended admirably throughout the 83-mintue match to end with a 68%-win percentage and without dropping serve. By contrast, Kudermetova was often under attack from the first ball on return, managing just 29% on her own second serve.

“I always made the same mistakes against her, so I didn’t want to do it for a fourth time in a row,” Badosa explained. “I started to serve very well and I think that was the key, as well as staying very aggressive to not let her move me too much. When she would be aggressive, I tried to get as many balls back a possible.”


As I always say every day, I think it’s the court that has a little bit of magic, or does some magic on me! Paula Badosa

The slow-bouncing hard courts certainly complement Badosa’s heavy topspin forehand, which regularly ripped through the court to amass 18 winners, and added extra zip to her serve to aid in her scoring five aces.

Few knew just what to expect from the defending champion who was less than six months removed from her career breakthrough last fall; though she’d begun 2022 with a fifth title un Sydney, Badosa won just one match in the Middle East after a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open.

Badosa often points to her head after matches to emphasize her improved mental strength, and that has surely helped her play clutch tennis all week against unyielding opposition—whether it was the likes of Martincova and Kudermetova or US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, who rode a seven-match winning streak into their Round of 16 encounter.

Playing at a level that has already earned her a career-high of No. 4, Badosa could yet move further up the WTA rankings should she nab a second title at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden: she, Iga Swiatek, and semifinal opponent Maria Sakkari remain in a three-way race for world No. 2, which likely won’t be decided until Championship Sunday.

Badosa will first need to defeat Sakkari in a rematch of their Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara round robin, which she won in straight sets.

“Maria is an amazing player and a very nice person,” said Badosa. “I’m really happy for her, for her career. Tomorrow is going to be a match between two fighting people, with fighting spirit. I really respect her and hope we’ll have a very good match.”


The No. 6 seed was first to win on Thursday when she recovered from a 1-4 opening set deficit to defeat No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina, 7-5, 6-3. Like Badosa, the Greek starlet’s heavy topspin won the day against the Kazkah’s flatter ball—both keeping the ball in play and preventing Rybakina from taking her requisite big cuts.

“I like to come back and I’ve come back a lot of times in my career,” Sakkari mused after the match. “I just had hope and faith in myself, told myself to make it physical and get a lot of balls back. I wasn’t serving great in the first couple of games, but I’m very pleased I’m in the semifinals of a tournament were I haven’t won a match in four years!”

Sakkari is also yet to drop a set in Indian Wells, advancing five games into her fourth round when Daria Saville retired due to an adductor injury, and dropping just three games to former world No. 2 Petra Kvitova and, like Badosa, will need to win the title to assure herself the No. 2 ranking.

Unlike Badosa, Sakkari’s 2021 breakthroughs were rarely rewarded with major hardware: her two major semifinals ended in bitter defeats, and she reached just one final to seven semifinal finishes. While she has done well to maintain her level, the 26-year-old Athenian will need all her athleticism and aggression to upset Badosa on Friday—especially if Badosa continues playing with no pressure.