Sluggish Serena powers past Radwanska into final

After ending her 14-year boycott of Indian Wells last year, Serena Williams reached the final for the first time since 2001 via a 6-4 7-6 (7-1) victory against the third seed Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday.

Serena Williams returns during her semifinal against Agnieszka Radwanska.   -  AP

World number one Serena Williams advanced to the BNP Paribas Open final thanks to a straight-sets win over Agnieszka Radwanska, though the two-time champion was far from her best. After ending her 14-year boycott of Indian Wells last year, Williams reached the final for the first time since 2001 via a 6-4 7-6 (7-1) victory against the third seed on Friday.





Williams, however, will be hoping for some improvement ahead of a showdown against 2012 winner Victoria Azarenka, as she vies for a 70th career title. The 21-time Grand-Slam champion came into the semifinal clash with a 9-0 record against Radwanska, having swept the Pole at the same stage of the Australian Open in January.

But Williams was slow out of the blocks, looking uncharacteristically sluggish as Radwanska benefitted from unforced errors to break in the opening game. Williams continued to rack up the unforced errors, 12 in 17 minutes, with Radwanska leading 3-1.

Despite sending two forehands long and smashing a volley into the net, Williams fended off three break points in the fifth game, which proved to be decisive. Williams won four straight games from 4-2 down, breaking Radwanska to close out the set in 42 minutes.

And Williams threatened to run away with proceedings after Radwanska was held point-less until the third game of the second set. Leading 3-0, however, Williams handed the break back to Radwanska, who won three straight games to level the topsy-turvy set. Radwanska then broke for a 6-5 lead but she proved wasteful yet again as the American veteran forced a tie-break, which was a one-sided affair.

Azarenka advances to final

Victoria Azarenka, a former champion, advanced to the Indian Wells final by defeating Czech Karolina Pliskova in three sets 7-6 (7/1), 1-6, 6-2 on Friday night. Azarenka, who won the title here in 2012, will face Serena.