Sunday, October 17, 2021

Ex-NorCal star Norrie, Badosa earn unlikely titles in BNP

 No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie beat No. 29 seed Nikoloz
Basilashvili in three sets to win the BNP Paribas Open
in Indian Wells. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman 
   Even without many of the world's top players in the tournament, few, if any, observers could have foreseen Cameron Norrie and Paula Badosa winning the BNP Paribas Open.
   Both Norrie, a 26-year-old British left-hander, and Badosa, a 23-year-old Spaniard, were seeded No. 21. Neither had won a match in Indian Wells before this year. Badosa, in fact, played in the main draw for the first time.
   But Norrie defeated No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 today after Badosa edged No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2) in 3 hours, 4 minutes.
   All except Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, were playing in the biggest match of their lives. Azarenka was bidding to become the first woman to win the tournament three times. 
   Absent from the BNP Paribas Open, normally held in March, were Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem — who had combined to win 14 of the previous 16 titles — the top two-ranked women (Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka) and 2018 champion Naomi Osaka.
   Badosa, a quarterfinalist in this year's French Open and Tokyo Olympics, was two points from losing with Azarenka serving at 5-4, 30-0 in the third set. Azarenka then committed four consecutive errors, leveling the set at 5-5. After both players held serve, Badosa bolted to leads of 3-0 and 5-1 in the tiebreaker and held on from there.
   Badosa, a New York native, defeated four top-20 players in a row to reach the final.
   "The first thing that I've learned this week is that nothing is impossible," Badosa, who has spoken openly about experiencing depression. "If you fight, if you work, after all these years, you can achieve anything. ... 
   "I have been through tough moments. I never stopped dreaming. That's what kept me working hard and believing until the last moment."
   Norrie was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand, starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and lives in London. He defeated one top-20 player, No. 15 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, en route to the title.
   "If you'd have told me I'd have won before the tournament, I wouldn't have believed you, so it's amazing," Norrie, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Tiburon and Stockton in 2017, said in an on-court interview.
  Badosa and Norrie will rise to career highs of No. 11 and No. 16 (No. 1 in Great Britain), respectively, on Monday. They pocketed $1,209,730 each.
   ATP Tour — No. 1 seed Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area beat wild card Michael Geerts of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying for the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Brooksby, ranked a career-high No. 70, is scheduled to play Slovakia's Norbert Gombos, ranked No. 115 and seeded No. 8, on Monday for a main-draw berth. Gombos, 31, dispatched Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

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