INDIAN WELLS: France's Kristina Mladenovic rallied to beat former world number one Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 on Thursday (Mar 16) and reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells.
|France's Kristina Mladenovic plays a forehand against Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in their quarter-final match during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. Mladenovic won 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 to reach the semi-finals. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images/AFP)|
The 26th-ranked Mladenovic, continues to build on a strong start to a season that has included a first career title in St. Petersburg in February and a runner-up finish in Acapulco this month.
By reaching the final four she is projected to break into the top 20 in the world for the first time, and she'll play for a place in the final against either seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams or Russian Elena Vesnina.
It took Mladenovic some time to find her way into the match against 2011 Indian Wells champion Wozniacki.
She was unable to convert nine break points in the opening set as Wozniacki powered to a 5-1 lead, finally breaking the Dane for 5-2.
Although Wozniacki duly pocketed the first set, Mladenovic had found her range and it was a see-saw battle featuring six breaks of serve as they played to the second-set tiebreaker.
"I was very frustrated with the beginning of the match," said Mladenovic, who is into the semi-finals of a premier mandatory level WTA tournament for the first time. "I was hitting a lot of unforced errors and you can't do that against a top player like Caroline.
"I felt like I had to adjust to this huge court. It feels different to play out here after hiding out on the small courts. I just tried to stay positive and fight like always."
Mladenovic broke Wozniacki twice in the third set en route to the victory in two hours and 33 minutes, finishing with an impressive 42 winners.
"I'm going to enjoy this win and try to recover, because two and half hours on court takes a lot out of me," she said.
Williams, who ended a 15-year boycott of the event last year but lost her opening match, is seeking a first Indian Wells title.
The 36-year-old American, who saved three match points in her opening victory over former world number one Jelena Jankovic, says she's loving the game more than ever.
"I've clearly loved the game. You have to, to play this long, to deal with the pressure and to put in the amount of work that it takes," said Williams, who made a sparkling run to the Australian Open final where she lost to her sister Serena. "But I definitely feel like I'm peaking in terms of the love level."
Vesnina took a 3-2 career advantage over Williams into their afternoon quarter-final, including a victory at Wimbledon over the American who has won five titles at the All England Club.
"I have so much respect for Venus and Serena, they're great champions," Vesnina said after ousting Germany's Angelique Kerber, who will return to number one in the world on Monday despite her early exit.
"I hope it's going to be a great match because it's always an honor to play against her."