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By Chris Oddo | Friday March 17, 2017

For the first time since 2006 there will be an all-Russian final at the BNP Paribas Open. Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5), 7-6(2) in Friday’s second semifinal to reach her 40th career final. Earlier on Friday Elena Vesnina defeated France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3, 6-4 to reach her 10th career WTA final and her first at the Premier Mandatory level.

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“It’s not every day you have nights like that when you're in semifinal of such a prestigious event and fighting for the final,” Vesnina said after easing past Mladenovic. The Russian took advantage of a shaky start in each set from the Frenchwoman, building big leads each time before Mladenovic cut the deficit.

But each time Mladenovic could not close the gap. Vesnina finished with five breaks on 11 opportunities, serving the match out in one hour and 24 minutes to improve to 3-0 vs. Mladenovic. “Kiki was always trying to play her best tennis when she was behind on the score,” Vesnina said. “It's not easy to come back from 5-Love and 5-1. It's not easy at all.”

In the second semifinal Kuznetsova and Pliskova played some electric tennis, but it was Kuznetsova who played the big points better. Pliskova, like Mladenovic, started slowly. She only made 50 percent of her first-serves and was broken twice in the first set despite seven aces. She would rally back from a break down but fell short in the tiebreaker.

She held a brief lead in the second set but Kuznetsova leveled before the pair played another tiebreaker. Kuznetsova finished with 28 winners against 18 unforced errors, while Pliskova hit 42 winners against 36 unforced errors.

Kuznetsova has now won five times against the WTA’s Top 5 in the last 52 weeks, including twice against Pliskova. The Russian will rise to No.7 in the world as a result of reaching the final and could climb to No.6 with the title.

It would be her highest ranking since May 24, 2010.

Vesnina, ranked 15, will rise to a career-high ranking of 13 if she wins the title.


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