Elena Vesnina brought out her best game on Sunday to defeat fellow Russian and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women's singles final to clinch the Indian Wells crown. Vesnina capped a stellar campaign with a hard-fought 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over Kuznetsova. Playing in her first final at the elite Premier Mandatory level, World No.15 Vesnina battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue eighth-ranked Kuznetsova.
The triumph comes a year after Vesnina, 30, fell in the first round of qualifying at Indian Wells and capped a tournament that saw her down both Germany's soon-to-be number one Angelique Kerber and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.
For Kuznetsova, it was a third disappointment in as many finals at Indian Wells, this one coming a decade after she fell in back to back finals in 2007 and 2008.
A third set that, like the first two, featured multiple service breaks saw Kuznetsova take a 4-2 lead before Vesnina broke for 4-3 then won a marathon ninth game in which Kuznetsova saved four break points before Vesnina converted her fifth with a stinging service winner to find herself serving for the match.
After knocking a forehand wide on her first match point, she secured the victory when Kuznetsova's service return went long.
"She was up set and 4-1, then 4-2 in the third," Vesnina said. "She had so many break points on my serve. She was 30-Love up couple of times on her serves. And I always keep coming back. I stick there, you know.
"I was just not giving anything at that moment. I didn't think about the end of the match.
"And when I broke her at 4-All and went to serve for the match, I had this in my mind: I'm not going to give it. I went to serve and I was, like, I'm never going to lose this game."
For a time it seemed Kuznetsova's steadier play would win the day, but in the end it was Vesnina's aggression that paid off, even though her 49 unforced errors out-stripped her 46 winners.