Mladenovic reaches Indian Wells semis and top 20 in rankings
Kristina Mladenovic, of France, returns a shot against Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Kristina Mladenovic outlasted Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday and break into the top 20 in the WTA Tour rankings for the first time in her career.
Neither Mladenovic nor Wozniacki had dropped a set before their quarterfinal. Wozniacki rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the second set to force the tiebreaker, but the former world No. 1 and 2011 Indian Wells winner never led in the tiebreaker.
Wozniacki held for a 2-1 lead in the third set and then had her right foot heavily taped by a trainer. She went on to lose the final five games and the match, making the 28th-seeded Mladenovic the lowest seed to reach the semis.
"I didn't break her when I had the opportunity," Wozniacki said. "I didn't hold when I had the opportunity and all of sudden those games kind of slipped away. She had some big forehands when she needed to and then I see myself down 5-2, and it could maybe have been different."
There were 11 service breaks in the 2 ½-hour match played in 91 degree (32 C) heat.
Mladenovic will play the winner of a later match between 12th-seeded Venus Williams and No. 14 Elena Vesnina.
No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are set for the other semifinal.
Besides moving up in the world rankings, Mladenovic becomes the new No. 1 in France, overtaking countrywoman Caroline Garcia by virtue of her results in the desert.
"I see that it's paying off, that the results are coming," Mladenovic said. "The ranking is just the consequence of all the work you put on a daily basis. Eventually, you're playing those great matches better and better and give yourself a chance to win them, and then the ranking obviously follows."
In a match involving the two lowest remaining men's seeds, No. 21 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain edged 27th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, 6-1, 3-6 7-6 (4).
Cuevas tied it 3-all in the tiebreak before Carreno Busta won the final five points to close out the two-hour match.
It was the biggest singles quarterfinal of their respective careers. Carreno Busta had not reached that stage of a Masters 1000 event in 17 previous tries; Cuevas hadn't been there in 29 tries.
Carreno Busta avenged his loss to Cuevas in the Sao Paulo semifinals on March 6 and in the process snapped Cuevas' seven-match winning streak.
Carreno Busta will play either No. 3 Stan Wawrinka or No. 8 Dominic Thiem, who met in an evening quarterfinal.