INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Cameron Norrie beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open, giving the tournament its first champion ranked outside of the Top 25 since 2010.
Norrie, ranked 26th, had the only two breaks of the final set and won when Basilashvili’s backhand sailed long on match point. Basilashvili, ranked 36th, was the first player from the former Soviet republic of Georgia to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Norrie, Ivan Ljubicic in 2019, Alex Corretja in 2000 and Jim Courier in 1991 — all were ranked 26th — won the title while ranked outside the Top 25 since the tournament moved to Indian Wells in 1987. Larry Stefanki was ranked 143rd when he won in 1985 at nearby La Quinta.
The women’s final produced a first-time champion, too.
Paula Badosa edged Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2) in her Indian Wells debut.
She joined Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the title in her first appearance. It was Badosa’s second title of her career, having won in Belgrade earlier this year.
Norrie handled the big-hitting Basilashvili's power off the baseline by working the angles. He broke the Georgian at love on Basilashvili's forehand error to take the second set.
Norrie was up a break at 2-0 in the second when he fought off a rare break point on his serve for a 3-0 lead. Basilashvili won his only game with a crosscourt forehand winner off Norrie's drop shot to trail 3-1. Norrie won the final three games to take the match in just under two hours.
Badosa and Azarenka struggled for over three hours, trading back-to-back service breaks five times. The last time Azarenka broke for a 5-4 lead in the third, and Badosa broke right back for a 5-all tie.
“We were both going for our shots, really pushing each other to the max,” Azarenka said.
Badosa missed a backhand that allowed Azarenka to hold at 6-all.
Badosa dominated the tiebreaker, racing to a 6-2 lead. Azarenka dumped a forehand into the net to give Badosa match point.
Badosa cracked a forehand winner, then collapsed at the baseline. She lie face down, crying and shaking, before getting up. Azarenka came around the net and hugged the 23-year-old Spaniard.
Azarenka, the two-time major champion and former top-ranked player, was seeking just her second title since 2016. She last won in 2020 at Cincinnati. The 32-year-old from Belarus came up short in her bid to become the first woman to win Indian Wells three times, having taken the title in 2012 and 2016.
Azarenka's season was interrupted by injuries and she made early exits in the Grand Slam events. Her best result was making the fourth round at the French Open.
“This year has been challenging a bit,” she said, “but finishing on a strong note, not necessarily with the result I wanted but with the progress I wanted to seek, that's really positive.”
In the first-set tiebreaker, Badosa had leads of 4-0 and 5-3. Azarenka tied it 5-all on Badosa’s netted forehand. Azarenka missed a backhand to give Badosa a set point and the Spaniard cashed in with a backhand winner to take the set.
“It was like a roller coaster mentally, emotionally,” Badosa said.
She beat fifth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round, No. 15 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals and No. 14 Ons Jabeur in the semifinals — all in straight sets — to reach the final.
“The first thing I learned this week is that nothing is impossible,” Badosa said.
Badosa earned $1.2 million, more than her previous prize money for the year of just over $1 million.
She came into the tournament ranked 27th in the world; a year ago, she was 87th. Badosa is projected to rise to a career-best 13th in Monday’s WTA Tour rankings.
The combined ATP and WTA tour event was one of the first major sporting events canceled in March 2020 when the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. It will return to its usual March slot next year.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Beth Harris, The Associated Press