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Rediff.com  » Sports » Indian Wells PHOTOS: Pennetta to face Radwanska in final; Djokovic, Isner in semis

Indian Wells PHOTOS: Pennetta to face Radwanska in final; Djokovic, Isner in semis

Last updated on: March 15, 2014 12:49 IST

Indian Wells PHOTOS: Pennetta to face Radwanska in final

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Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta upset China's Australian Open champion Li Na on Friday to join Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska in the women's final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

The 32-year-old Pennetta qualified for the biggest singles final of her career after a 7-6(5), 6-3 drubbing of an out-of-sorts Li.

Pennetta will face Radwanska in Sunday's final after the Pole avenged her loss to Romania's Simona Halep in Qatar last month with a 6-3, 6-4 win on the Californian desert hardcourts.


Image: Flavia Pennetta of Italy returns a shot to Li Na of China
Photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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Incredible year for Pennetta

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Li was promoted to the women's seed in the absence of world number one Serena Williams but had struggled with her serve all week.

She had similar problems against Pennetta, coughing up eight double faults in the first set alone, as the players traded eight service breaks before Pennetta won the tiebreaker.

Li's serve improved in the second set but her forehand let her down as she started to spray shots all over the court and Pennetta seized her chance, sealing her victory with a backhand winner.

For Pennetta, reaching the final capped an incredible year for a woman who was primarily regarded as a doubles player.

Less than a year ago, her singles ranking had plummeted to 166 and she was considering retiring, before she made a fairytale run at the U.S. Open, reaching the semi-finals.

She also made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January, which Li won, and is now through to her first Premier Level final and first singles final of any kind since 2011.


Image: Li Na of China hits a return
Photographs: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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Radwanska was playing aggressively

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Radwanska, ranked third in the world, sealed the first set with an ace after she broke Halep's opening service game but found herself trailing the second when the Romanian broke.

But the 25-year-old Pole regained control, getting back on level terms then getting a second break and serving out her victory to reach her first final at Indian Wells.

"What I was trying to do was play aggressively from the beginning of the match and just try to go for my shots," said Radwanska.

"I was lucky. I think I was serving better than other days, so that helped today as well. I think it was a pretty good match."

Halep took some consolation from her defeat as she will rise to fifth place in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday.

"It was a tough match," said Halep. "She played really well.

"She deserved to win today. Every ball was in for her, and I had to run a lot. I think I started the match a bit too soft. I was not ready to play.

"But she is a great player. It's always difficult to play against her. I wanted to find my way to play. I did, but (it) was too late in first set. She was better than me today."


Image: Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland lunges to return a backhand
Photographs: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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Djokovic meets Isner in semis

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic and American John Isner cruised into the last four of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Friday with straight-sets wins in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic hardly raised a sweat in the Californian desert as he eased to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Frenchman Julien Benneteau, before the towering Isner rode his booming serve to a 7-6(4), 7-6(3) win over Latvia's Ernests Gulbis.

Djokovic was not at his absolute best but was never in any real danger against the 32-year-old Benneteau, who beat him at Indian Wells eight years ago when the Serb was still a teenager.

Djokovic, 26, raced through the opening set in less than half an hour with two service breaks and four aces despite the windy conditions and an approaching sand storm.

The first six games of the second set all went with serve before Djokovic reeled off the last three in a row to seal a comfortable victory in less than 70 minutes.

He broke Benneteau for a 4-3 lead when the Frenchman double faulted, then again to wrap up the win when his opponent hit a forehand long and wide.


Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return
Photographs: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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'Focused on the court'

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"I felt like I was very focused on the court from the start, and it's what I was looking for. It's never too easy," said Djokovic, who won the Indian Wells title in 2008 and 2011.

"First few matches I played good tennis but I had some ups and downs. Today was very stable from the first to the last point.

"He made a lot of unforced errors, and obviously I just needed to make him play an extra shot and serve well. I have done everything I wanted."


Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia
Photographs: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Tags: Djokovic

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'Be ready to play three tie-breaks'

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Isner had a tougher time against Gulbis, winning the opening set in a tiebreaker after the first 12 games went with serve.

Isner fell behind in the second set when Gulbis found a way to break his serve but the Latvian was unable to capitalise as the American broke back and won the second tiebreaker.

Djokovic was beaten by Isner in the semi-finals at Indian Wells two years ago, losing tiebreakers in the first and third sets.

"He's definitely not somebody you like to play in the big heat with such serve," Djokovic said.

"It's very challenging because he doesn't miss his serve too much, so you have to kind of be able to hold your composure from the first to the last point and be ready to play three tie-breaks."


Image: John Isner follows through on a forehand
Photographs: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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