WATCH: Badosa reversed a three-game lull to edge past Kerber in two tight sets on Thursday evening.

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Paula Badosa often celebrates a win by pointing to her head, but the typically clear-eyed Spaniard began the fall swing under a cloud of uncertainty. She was without the coach that had helped catapult her up the WTA rankings; in his place: a sore shoulder, one that the Spaniard began strapping at the US Open.

Making her main draw debut at the BNP Paribas Open, Badosa has set aside all doubts in the California desert to put together another stellar run at a WTA 1000 tournament, weathering a late surge from former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber to advance, 6-4, 7-5, and become the first from her country to reach the semifinals since Conchita Martinez in 2003.

Badosa initially made her mark on clay, winning her first title in Belgrade after semifinal finishes in Charleston and Madrid, but quickly proved adept on all surfaces with a run to the second week of Wimbledon and a quarterfinal at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

“I think it's a big change from Madrid,” she explained after the match. “I'm even more confident. When I win a good match, I believe more in myself. Of course, I don't see it normal. I'm very excited every time I win them, but I'm getting more used to this, so I'm happy about that as well. I think it's a step forward for me.”

Flanked by childhood coach Jorge Garcia and boyfriend Juan Betancourt, she continued proving her hard-court prowess at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, sweeping aside American phenom Coco Gauff and reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova to book the quarterfinal clash with Kerber, a finalist here in 2019.

Kerber kickstarted her season on grass when she roared into Wimbledon’s last four and battled through a pair of three-setters to begin her Indian Wells campaign before putting down a more straightforward performance against Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic.

Badosa met Kerber on court for the first time and emerged victorious in straight sets.

Badosa met Kerber on court for the first time and emerged victorious in straight sets.

“She's been an amazing champion. Before my match I was talking to my coach. I was like, ‘Three years ago I was on the sofa watching her play the finals of Grand Slams. Imagine, I was No. 200.’”

Badosa met the challenge of facing Kerber’s unique game with enthusiasm from the start, taking a quick 2-0 lead and remaining in front even when the German broke back from 40-15 down. Employing measured aggression, the No. 21 seed outrallied Kerber with a brutal swing volley and subsequently nabbed a second break to claim the set.

Kerber appeared out of answers by the middle of the second set, netting numerous groundstrokes and throwing in a double fault as Badosa surged to a pair of match points. From there, the 23-year-old would take on another challenge entirely when Kerber suddenly lifted her game to its vintage best.

Absorbing and redirecting with hitherto unseen perfection, Kerber quickly evened the set at five games apiece while Badosa struggled to turn the momentum back towards her side.

“I got very nervous,” Badosa admitted. “But I think she raise her level a lot at 5-2. Then at 5-5, I didn't have another chance, so I said, ‘Now or never.’”

She indeed responded with a mature service game to stem the tide and the two were soon treating the Stadium 1 crowd to spectacular tennis. Playing Kerber’s own game to perfection, Badosa earned more match points when she converted a lob to the baseline into an impeccable backhand winner. Match point had the youngster on defense once more but a backhand floater clipped the line and teased the No. 10 seed into one last error.

After a string of dizzyingly impressive results, it would have been understandable—even predictable—for Badosa to incur a letdown, especially given the physical and logistical difficulties she’s endured since her summer peak.

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Of course, a change, always it's scary. Maybe even though things are going well, when you change, sometimes you lose a little bit of confidence. After I was struggling with my shoulder this last month, I didn't play so many matches...When I was coming here, I remember I was a little bit afraid of what could happen. Paula Badosa

“Of course, a change, always it's scary,” she said after her fourth round. “Maybe even though things are going well, when you change, sometimes you lose a little bit of confidence. After I was struggling with my shoulder this last month, I didn't play so many matches, so it was a little bit tough mentally. When I was coming here, I remember I was a little bit afraid of what could happen.”

For a player who has openly battled pressure and expectation, it is remarkable to watch Badosa stare down these potential setbacks and opt instead to play on pure instinct. On the verge of a Top 20 debut and in the hunt for a possible WTA Finals berth, this form doesn’t come at the expense of dead-eyed tunnel vision: Badosa is happier than ever, shouting out friendly rivals like Krejcikova and Ons Jabeur, who she’ll face in a rematch of a Miami Open second round back in March.

“I hope tonight she eats a lot of burgers and she cannot play,” she joked when told the Tunisian star said she wanted Badosa and Kerber to play for five hours.

“I'm really, really proud and happy that I have a lot of friends on tour,” she continued. “Of course, it's lonely and they're your opponents some days, like maybe tomorrow or the other day with Barbora.

“At the end of the day you're spending more moments between each other than with your own family. They become your own family after so many years. I think it's nice like that. I'm very competitive, but on court. Outside court, I don't feel that. I'm happy that I can say that they're my friends.”

With her audacious style, Jabeur plays her best when she can inspire doubt in her opponents, but Badosa has already weathered far worse to get to this stage of the season, and appears poised to deliver the kind of clear-eyed tennis that should make their semifinal a must-watch.