Stan Wawrinka raised his game on the big points and dominated the climactic third-set tiebreaker to beat Dominic Thiem 6-4 4-6 7-6(2) on Thursday and reach the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Third seed Wawrinka, who six months ago beat Novak Djokovic to win the U.S. Open, won a gripping slugfest against the 23-year-old Austrian, hammering home five third-set aces including one to reach quadruple match point in the tiebreak.
“The level was really high tonight,” Wawrinka, 31, said in an on-court interview.
“I’m really happy the way I was playing, the way I found a way to win it.”
Thiem kept pace with the Swiss on the strength of his booming forehand, but by the end of the two hour 31 minute match, he lost the range on his favoured shot, belting three forehands well long to lose his way in the third-set decider.
“The player who was the most aggressive, was dictating, was winning most of the points,” said Wawrinka, who saved eight of 11 break points. “I’m really happy to have served well in the tiebreak. I think that was the key.”
Wawrinka broke in the second game to storm out to a 3-0 lead. Thiem then swept the next three games to level the set on the way to the decider.
The Swiss advanced to his first final four at Indian Wells, where he will meet 21st seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who was also extended to a third-set decider in his 6-1 3-6 7-6(4) win over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Carreno Busta saved two match points before booking a berth in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final.
The Spaniard ended Cuevas’ seven-match winning streak with victory in two hours and five minutes, avenging his defeat to the Uruguayan in Sao Paulo two weeks ago.
“This tournament is one of the best tournaments in the year and maybe one of the toughest, because all the people are playing here,” said Carreno Busta.
In the women’s draw, Elena Vesnina denied Venus Williams another comeback win, while Kristina Mladenovic roared back from a set and a break down to beat Caroline Wozniacki to reach the semi-finals.
Williams, who this week survived match points against Jelena Jankovic and was down a break in the third against Peng Shuai, fought off three match points in the eighth game and had six chances to bring it back on serve in the next before the 14th-seeded Russian finally held to finish a gutsy 6-2 4-6 6-3 win.
The 30-year-old Vesnina, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year, ripped a forehand putaway off a backhand from 12th seed Williams that clipped the netcord to end the two hour 11 minute battle in the California desert.
“At the end of the match, I don’t know how I won that game from 0-40,” Vesnina, who had ousted second seed Angelique Kerber to reach the quarters, said in an on-court interview.
“In the first set she was a little bit slow, missed some easy balls. But then in the second set, Venus was back and I was in trouble.”
Mladenovic, the 28th seed, continued an impressive run of form beating 13th seed and 2011 winner Wozniacki 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 to reach her first Premier Mandatory semi-final and guarantee her debut in the Top 20 in next week’s WTA rankings.