Venus edges Sevastova, back into Indian Wells quarterfinals

No.8 seed Venus Williams is back into the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals for the third time in her career, and she’s through without dropping a set.
Riding high after defeating sister Serena in the last round for the first time since 2014, Venus backed up the victory by taking down No.21 seed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets, 7-6(6), 6-4.

“It was not an easy match to figure out,” Venus admitted in her on-court interview. “She has everything in her game. And it was a quick comeback from yesterday, where you have the emotions of, ‘Hey, this feels like a final! But guess what, you’re only in the fourth round.’”
Venus trailed by a break for most of the opening set and started the second with a 0-3 deficit, but it wasn’t enough for Sevastova to put away the seven-time Grand Slam champion.
In fact, neither player could quite manage to shake off the other, especially during the closely contested opening set. After trading breaks to start, Sevastova got ahead with a third one, building up a 4-2 lead. But Venus came roaring back, winning the next 12 of 14 points to snatch up three games in a row.
After a titanic hustle to hold serve - with Sevastova having to fight off break points that would have handed Venus the set at 5-4 - the pair marched into a tiebreaker. It was just as close there as it was in the rest of the set, with just one minibreak making the difference for Venus.
Sevastova put away the disappointment of coming away empty-handed, starting off the second set on a tear with a 3-0 lead. But once again Venus refused to wilt, tracking down every drop shot and tricky slice the Latvian threw her way.
Venus was rewarded with a break back for 3-3, bringing them back on serve, and reeled off the next three of four games to make her way back into the Indian Wells quarterfinals after an hour and 48 minutes.
Up next, either Carla Suarez Navarro or wildcard Danielle Collins awaits Venus in the quarterfinals.
No.1 seed Simona Halep put on a crescendo of a performance to book her place in her fourth BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal, with her trademark baseline intensity getting better and better over the course of a 7-5, 6-1 defeat of unseeded Wang Qiang.
The first meeting between the 26-year-olds saw both players focus on testing the other's baseline consistency throughout an evenly contested first set. The Chinese No.3 scored some early highlight reel points off both wings in the opening stages, but it was Halep who found an extra gear in the fifth game, hammering spectacular down-the-line winners off first the forehand and then the backhand en route to breaking for the first time.
The Romanian's aggression went awry immediately, though, with her forehand letting her down as cheap errors conceded the break back in the next game. Another two breaks followed, as both players' attempts to stay on top of rallies resulted in more errors; and then a pair of holds, with improved serving stabilising their games.
The World No.1 picked the eleventh game to move through the gears again, dominating with her forehand to break Wang's serve for the third time; and, though overcooked forehands and a fabulous backhand winner staved off three set points in the next game, Halep pulled out a timely service winner to close it out on her fourth.
Wang's disappointment at coming out on the losing end of a set of narrow margins manifest itself in a poor start to the second set. The World No.55 conceded her first service game to love, and lost 12 of the set's first 15 points as her backhand began to leak a plethora of errors.
Halep, by contrast, used her victory as a launching pad to go to a new level - and, this time, to stay there. Taking the ball earlier and earlier, there was little hesistancy about the 2015 Indian Wells champion's game now; the sheer impenetrable intensity of the high-octane rallies she forced Wang to engage in had the effect of smothering her opponent's game.
Trailing 0-3, the Chinese No.3 hustled gamely to retrieve one of the breaks, refusing to go gently into the desert afternoon in her first fourth-round appearance here. Indeed, the final four games provided the highest-quality tennis of the encounter from both players as Wang desperately continued to halt the Halep march to the finishing line.
It was in vain; though Wang, playing a World No.1 for the first time in her career, scored hits with determined counterpunching, her strokes would invariably break down first in their toe-to-toe rallies. In the final game, the Australian Open runner-up fought through three deuces before firing a 16th and final laser-like forehand winner down the line to set up match point. A 29th unforced error from Wang later, and Halep was through to her fourth Indian Wells quarterfinal in eight visits, where another unseeded player awaits in the form of Petra Martic.
 No.4 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic weathered a tricky encounter against the No.5 seeds Monica Niculescu and Andrea Sestini Hlavackova to advance into the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open, 6-4, 6-3.

“Both of our opponents had lots of experience, tricky games,” Mladenovic said afterwards. “But [Timea and I] are having a great year - we’re having fun and we’re close friends for a very long time.
“When we’re both out of the singles, we still somehow enjoy the process of going out on the practice courts to work on our singles game. And then we challenge ourselves together on the doubles court and see how we’ve improved.
“It’s really a process, and we’re really enjoying seeing that the work is paying off.”
Also in action, No.3 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan pulled off the ultimate escape act to edge past No.8 seeds Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in a titanic, two-hour battle, winning, 7-6(7), 5-7, 12-10.
They’ll face the unseeded duo of Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova, who are playing in their first tournament together and moved into the semifinals after a 6-4, 6-1 win over Katarina Srebotnik and Vania King.