Contrary to initial permutations, Paula Badosa demonstrated her mental toughness to become the WTA Indian Wells champion in her desert debut on Sunday with a hard-fought, three-set victory over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
The Spaniard, who had not lost a set since her first match of the tournament, needed three hours and four minutes to out-muscle Azarenka 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 7-6 (7/2).
“Every morning I wake up and my dream is to win a tournament like this,” Badosa said. “I have to keep working hard and always believe. The key is to enjoy the journey.”
Badosa won her only previous WTA final earlier this season in Belgrade but she did it via a retirement over Ana Konjuh.
This one was sweeter because Badosa got to close out the championship point on the court, hammering a forehand winner to the open side that Azarenka could only watch sail in.
Badosa celebrated the biggest win of her career by falling face first to the court, both hands covering her face while the crowd cheered.
“This is a dream come true,” said Badosa during the post-match festivities on the court.
She then turned to Azarenka, saying “I remember when I was 14 or 15 years old seeing you win Grand Slams and hoping one day I can play like that.”
Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka was trying to become the first three-time WTA winner in Indian Wells.
She battled back several times on Sunday, digging in after dropping the first set in a tightly-contested tiebreaker. But the 32-year-old Belarussian fell behind early in the final set tiebreaker and couldn’t recover.