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Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Three time Miami Open champion Venus Williams took another step forward in the hope of seizing another trophy at the Miami Open. She defeated 22 year old Romanian qualifier Patricia Maria Tig 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the fourth round where she will face 2006 winner and 2016 finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian put a stop to American qualifier Taylor Townsend’s dream run with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph.

The first point of the match was a double fault by Williams. The 36 year old struggled to find the rhythm on her first serve which cost her in the third game, permitting Tig to capitalize on break point for 2-1. Undeterred, Williams broke back at love to even up the scoreboard.

Up to that point, the Romanian had been quite impressive knocking out Heather Watson of Great Britain in her maiden main draw match. Subsequently, she dismissed 2017 Indian Wells semifinalist and 18th seed Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.

Once up 4-3, Venus seemed to find her form and by feasting on the second serve offerings by Tig. She got the second break of the set for 5-3. Later with a winner, she closed out the deal on her serve.

The 2017 Australian Open finalist and 7 time major title holder cruised through the second set pocketing six successive games to get to the next stage.

Williams did not get out of the gate as expected, “I’ve never played her, so you have to get used to patterns or rhythm. So I thought she played well. She’s got a great game. Every game was competitive. Definitely a lot of credit to her.”

As the adage goes, it’s not how one starts but finishes. Venus turned on the afterburner in the second set “no matter what, I’m going to leave everything on the court: all my guts, blood, sweat, tears. Obviously you don’t want to wait until you’re a set down to find your best game. Today I was quite happy to acclimate quicker.”

On court coaching has been an aspect of the sport that Venus has hardly utilized, she likes to earn her victories the old fashion way “I hadn’t thought a ton about it. From my understanding, on-court coaching was supposed to be a selling point to build the game and get more interest . . . If it’s doing that, then it’s a plus. We want the game to grow and people to watch because it’s exciting. I don’t necessarily have an opinion. If it’s helping the game, I’m like down. I’m good.”

Regarding her next challenge, Kuznetsova who holds a 5-4 lead in their head to head, Venus made these comments pre match ” We’ve had a lot of great matches. I played her in the very beginning of her career and now we both have had great careers that are continuing to be amazing. I know her game. I don’t think there will be any surprises. She knows mine. I just want to continue to control the court. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Earlier in the day, world number one and top seed Angelique Kerber had to work to obtain a 6-4, 7-5 win over American Shelby Rogers. In the first set, the top seed fell behind 3-0. However, she went on a five game streak to move ahead 5-4. Soon, with Rogers committing her 21st miscue, Kerber had triple set point which she banked as the American misfired again.

In the second set, with Rogers’ backhand winner clipping the line, Kerber faced triple break point. As the 2 time major champion dumped a forehand into the net, Rogers secured a 4-2 edge. But her joy lasted only a few minutes. The very next game she surrendered the advantage due to a litany of mistakes. In the eleventh game, Kerber allowed her opponent to press while she stayed consistent with her stroke. That strategy banked her the break for 6-5. With a swift hold, she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Next up for the German will be 23 year old Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki who upset 16th seed Kiki Bertens in the second round, then booted Julia Goerges ranked 47th.

Madison Keyes’ comeback from left wrist surgery is still a work in progress. Today the world number 9 was send packing by Lara Arruabarrena, ranked 72nd, 7-5, 7-5.

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Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

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The customary sentiment when one is 19 years old and sees a living legend across the net as the opponent is panic. By the time, the realization has set that it is an actual competition, the score line usually reads something like 0-6 with the first set evaporating in less than half an hour. Frances Tiafoe may be young, but he demonstrated a maturity today that will serve him well in the future as he faced the 18 time majors champion, Roger Federer. Although the Swiss master penned another in the win column, he was tested by the teenager in his 7-6, 6-3 victory in the second round at the Miami Open.

Ranked 101, Tiafoe worked his way into the main draw by qualifying. Then, he prevailed in the first round to earn his date with the reigning Australian Open champion. In the opening game, the American gave a nice account of himself, not getting frazzled after a 40-love lead dwindled to 40-30. With a nice backhand down the line winner, Tiafoe kept the proceeding on serve at 2-1.

As the competitors waited in the tunnel for their names to be announced, Federer was jovial and relaxed, chatting with the kid tasked with carrying his bag on court. To the contrary, Tiafoe had his racket bag on his back, concentrating intently not to let nerves creep up, not glancing long at his opponent. As he once mentioned Federer is “too smooth to emulate. He makes it look too easy. He is everybody’s idol.”

Federer kept his cool in the eight and tenth games, serving consecutive love games to put the set on an even footing twice. Later, it was Tiafoe’s turn to get comfortably to 6-5. When the former world number one saw a breathtaking backhand winner whiz for 0-15, he did not blink. Ultimately, Federer pushed the set into a tiebreaker with an ace. From that point on, Federer’s experience shone. Subsequent to securing the first point and mini-break with a volley winner, Federer cruised to capture the set.

After surrendering the first set with a bevy of unforced errors, Tiafoe rebounded by seizing the first break chance in the match to start the second set. However, his joy was ephemeral as Federer created two chances of his own and shortly leveled the set. Another testy moment in the contest was the fourth game. With three miscues, Tiafoe dug himself a 0-40 hole. The youngster shoveled himself out to reach 2 all. Yet, soon his next time serving the American stared at 15-40, Federer applied the accelerator to grab the break. The Swiss promptly sealed a love game with an ace to consolidate and move ahead 5-2. Still, for Tiafoe, there was no let down as he held serve and forced Federer to earn the win. The world number six did so with an easy service game.

Following the match, Federer reflected “I’ve hit with Frances maybe twice before: Once at the French and once at the US Open. There he surprised me . . .I saw the power he had, the explosivity he had, how he easily can generate pace. So I think he’s going to be really good, like most of the NextGen campaign . . . they’re pushing each other up right now. They have a good dynamic. They are quite friendly also with one another yet they have good rivalry.” He also praised the youngster for not letting the moment overwhelm him “I think the question was always how was he going to come out. It’s the question for any player. Also for me. How can you start a match? [He] seemed to be fearless, no problem, good serving, taking the ball early, making the plays. And that I like to see”

Hard to phantom, but at 35, Federer still gets jittery at the start of an event “even though I was pretty relaxed before the match . . .Yesterday I got these flashes of, Ooh, it’s going to be exciting. Then you walk out on court and there is always a big roar here in Miami . . it’s nice to get it over and done with on the winning side. You feel quite relieved to some extent because you know it can be dangerous. I don’t know his patterns well, or at all. I was actually playing very well. He stayed with me for very long time. That can make you nervous if maybe I wouldn’t have been so confident.”

With possibly, 14,000 sets of eyes watching, this is the biggest stage that Tiafoe has been on up to now. When Federer deferred and asked him to serve, admittedly, it amped up his anxiety level. “At first, I think he was feeling my game, didn’t know what to expect I think”.

When asked what is the primary lesson to take from this encounter, Tiafoe cited that he is encouraged by the way he played and that the goal will be to work hard on his game so that the next time he encounters such a big name it won’t be as early in the tournament. What does he feel he could improve “my return game”. Since the American pinpointed at least one aspect of his game which requires improvement, that alone is progress.

As Federer emphasized “I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a center court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward hopefully. . .we both played very well and both can maybe walk away from this match quite happy, which is not often in tennis that that’s maybe the case.”

Looking to the third round, Federer could collide with Juan Martin Del Potro “I would love to play against him. I’m happy for him with his comeback, winning at Davis Cup. . .I should have played him here last year but I was sick. It’s better to play him this time around when we’re both better. . . We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open.” But as the great one himself pointed out “I’m sure the crowd would love to see it. Robin Haase is going to have a say about that, as we know.”

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Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open

Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open

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First on Stadium Saturday at the Miami Open, Stanislas Wawrinka takes on Horacio Zeballos. The world number three holds a 2-0 record against Zeballos who had his best results at this event last year as a lucky loser. After Roger Federer pulled out due to illness, he shocked both Juan Martin Del Potro and Fernando Verdasco to advance to the round of 16 before being stopped by David Goffin. Consequently, with the Argentinian fans behind him and fond memories, Zeballos could present a challenge for the men’s top seed.

Later on in the afternoon, Wawrinka’s compatriot Federer begins his quest for the coveted Indian Wells, Miami Open double trophy, something he has not accomplished in over a decade. The 35 year old, 18 time major champion faces American rising star, 19 year old Frances Tiafoe. This will be their first meeting. The dynamic should be interesting dynamic considering the venue and the disparity in their resume.

A few day matches on the men’s column which are must see include, Sam Querrey versus Tommy Robredo and John Isner versus wildcard
Thomaz Bellucci.

On the women’s side, after her narrow escape in three sets on Friday, needing a rain delay and saving a match point against Christina McHale, Spain’s Garbine Murguruza returns for her third round match against China’s Shuia Zhang. The two met for the first time in Doha this year in the round of 16 with Zhang pulling off the upset. Thus, Murguruza will hungry for payback.

Another compelling day session match is Agnieszka Radwanska versus Mirjana Lucic- Baroni. The Croatian stunned 2012 Miami Open Champion in the second round this year at the Australian Open on route to her semifinal berth for the first time at a major since Wimbledon 1999. So, revenge will be on the agenda for the Pole without question.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova also are back on court for their third round matches as well as 2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova.

The honor of closing out the night on the men’s side belongs to Juan Martin Del Potro as he tussles with Robin Haase. With a 2-0 record over the Dutch and with the South American crowd likely to be in full force, Del Potro will likely book a projected date with Federer for the third round.

For the ladies, Sorona Cirstea battles Caroline Wozniacki to end the evening. It will be a riveting contest considering their close head to head of 4-3 with the former world number one having the edge.

Click here for Saturday’s complete order of play.

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Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action

Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action

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Friday the men will be the main attraction at the Miami Open as top ten players finally take court for second round play. The initial ATP match on display in Stadium Court showcases world number four Kei Nishikori against Kevin Anderson. The two played on three previous occasions all in 2015. Nishikori holds a 2-1 advantage in the win column. A former top 10 player, Anderson’s ranking has fallen to 74 due to niggling injury the last two seasons. However in looking to rebound, the 6 foot 8 inch South African will be quite a handful for Nishikori last year’s Miami Open finalist.

Later on in the afternoon, four time Miami Open finalist Rafael Nadal, with the absence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, begins his hunt for his first title in South Florida. Standing in the way in his maiden match is Dudi Sela. They’ve battled once before at the Australian Open with The Spaniard prevailing comfortably in three sets.

In the evening session, Grigor Dimitrov collides with Guido Pella on Stadium court. Two years ago, they duked it out with Dimitrov edging the Argentine out in two tough sets 7-6,6-4. Ranked 13th in the world, Dimitrov should handle his opponent, now at 178, with ease. But factoring in that the Argentinian will have plenty of support from the pro South American crowd, things might get dicey for the Bulgarian.

American Jack Sock fresh off his semifinal run at Indian Wells faces off against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka who himself as a lucky loser in the desert, had the tournament of his young tennis life so far. Nishioka shocked Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych to arrive at the round of 16. He nearly collected his biggest scalp against Miami Open top seed Stanislas Wawrinka before succumbing in a third set tiebreaker after failing to close out the match twice after being up a break. In their second meeting, Sock hopes to do better than their first in Acapulco this year since he was unable to collect the W.

On the ladies’ side, with sister Serena sideline by injury, Venus Williams carries the family’s hope for this Miami Open. The three time champion last made an appearance in the finals in 2010 with an unfavorable result. She clashes with Beatriz Haddad Maia for the first time in the second round. Also, World number one Angelique Kerber starts her campaign for the title, looking to improving on her best showing in South Florida which was a semifinal berth in 2016. The German contends with China’s Ying-Ying Duan, the two have never battled.

Click here for Friday’s complete order of play.

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On Tap Thursday at the Miami Open:  Pliskova, Muguruza and Wozniacki

On Tap Thursday at the Miami Open: Pliskova, Muguruza and Wozniacki


IMG_0720_MuguruzaIt’s an all American ladies’ line up on Stadium court at the Miami Open on Thursday as second round action gets underway. World number 3 Karolina Pliskova opens play on center court against American Madison Brengle. Later in the afternoon, 2012 Miami Open semifinalist and former world number one Carolina Wozniacki battles another American Varvara Lepchenko. The night cap has reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza taking on Christina McHale. With the former Spaniard by way of Venezuela, it should be an electric evening on Miami’s main show court.

On the men’s side, 19 year old American qualifier Frances Tiafoe tussles with Russsian Konstantin Kravchuk in his first round match. 20 year old promising Croatian Borna Coric precedes Tifae’s match as he squares off against Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers. Novak Djokovic’s slayer in the second round at this year’s Australian Open, Denis Istomin, faces Russian Andrey Kusznetsov.

Still, the day belongs to the women undoubtedly as 2012 Miami Open Champion Agnieszka Radwanska hopes to get back on track with a victory over China’s Qiang Wang. Australian Open 2017 semifinalist Coco Wandeweghe tries continue her wonderful 2017 with a deep run in South Florida. She takes on qualifier Jana Cepelova. Newly minted Indian Wells titlist Elena Vesnina starts her quest for the double crown as she looks to breeze through against Ajla Tomljanovic.

Click here for Thursday’s complete order of play.

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Roger Federer Set to Return to the Miami Open

Roger Federer Set to Return to the Miami Open

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Roger Federer will be returning to Key Biscayne later this year to take part in the 2017 Miami Open. The 17 time Major Champion announced on his website that he has added the Miami Open to his 2017 schedule.

The two-time Miami Open champion last appeared in Miami in 2014. In 2016 Roger Federer was forced to withdraw from his opening match against Juan Martin del Potro due to a stomach virus.

The 2017 Miami Open will take place March 20 through April 2, 2017 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida. Click here for ticket packages to the 2017 Miami Open.

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Djokovic Dominates Nishikori to Win Miami Open for Sixth Time

Djokovic Dominates Nishikori to Win Miami Open for Sixth Time

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Miami, Ricky Dimon @Dimonator
Novak Djokovic pulled off a three-peat at the Miami Open and won the tournament for the sixth time in his career by defeating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday afternoon. Djokovic got off to a relatively slow start and dropped serve twice in the first set but ended up cruising to the title in one hour and 26 minutes.

Nishikori broke right away at love for a quick 1-0 advantage in the opener only to give it right back. The world No. 1 soon found himself trailing by a break before earning another scalp of the Djokovic serve at 2-4. A somewhat bizarre first set saw Nishikori win eight return points–all of which came in two love service breaks. Djokovic held his other three service games at love.

Set two was more straightforward, with the top-seeded Serb surrendering only four points on serve. Two breaks were more than enough for Djokovic, who coasted to the finish line as Nishikori began struggling with an apparent knee problem.

“I thought he started very well breaking my serve in the first game and coming out with some big forehands and aggressive play,” the champion reflected. “I needed to answer right back, which I did in the following game…which helped me mentally to kind of continue the match in a right way. Because if you’re a break down, 2-0 down, things are a little bit different, obviously–especially against a player like Kei.

“It was best performance of the tournament (today). It came at the right time against a great, quality player.”

“I thought I wasn’t playing too bad,” Nishikori assessed. “But (at the) same time, he played great tennis. So that’s why I couldn’t play what I wanted to play. Also my serve wasn’t going (well) today. So that was [a] shame to have that, because he had a great return. I felt a little pressure on my service game.”

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In triumphing, Djokovic gained sole possession of the all-time lead in Masters 1000 titles with 28. He also surpassed Boris Becker for 11th place on the all-time ATP Open Era victories list with 714. Additionally, Djokovic moved past Roger Federer for No. 1 on the career prize money chart and completed the Indian Wells-Miami double for a record fourth time.

“Every year that I come back to Miami, I do go through those memories from back in 2007…the first Masters I won; (it) opened a lot of doors for me, gave me a lot of self-belief,” Djokovic added. “I started to realize that I’m able to win the big trophies and to beat the best players in the world. So of course this is a particular place for me to come back to, now winning it six times. Obviously I don’t take any win for granted, and especially in the big ones.”

Ricky Dimon is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Azarenka Defeats Kuznetsova to Claim Third Miami Open Title

Azarenka Defeats Kuznetsova to Claim Third Miami Open Title

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Karen Pestaina @TennisNewsTPN

Victoria Azarenka added her name to the list of women to complete the Indian Wells- Key Biscayne double when the 13th beat 2006 Miami Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Saturday 6-3, 6-2 for the title in 77 minutes. The Belarusian joins Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters as the only women to achieve this feat.

Azarenka, once ranked No. 1 in the world and sidelined with injuries on and off over the past few years.

“The most difficult thing would hold me back was my body wasn’t responding well to training, to matches, and I was unhealthy, I wasn’t fit enough. So that was holding me back. And after I think the point when you reach your goals and (indiscernible) that tip of mentality where you kind of drop your motivation a little bit, if you don’t put the work in it can sway you away.

“I definitely had some difficulties mentally to get back with my motivation, but I never doubted my abilities.”

Despite setbacks, the soon-to-be back into the top five player says she’s back.

“I felt that I played really well,” Azarenka said. “I really took a lot of time away from her and her shots. I didn’t see the statistics, but I think I had a pretty high number of winners today.”

“I think I have played pretty well last year. With my injury I had some pretty good results despite that. So I’m looking forward to putting necessary work in and then go after it.”

“It’s an honor to stand next to those amazing champions,” Azarenka said during the trophy ceremony in regard to reaching a milestone set only by Graf and Clijsters. “This just gives me even more inspiration and motivation to keep working harder, because this feels great.”

Azarenka, a two-time major champion is now 22-1 on the year, her only loss coming to Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the final 8 of Melbourne.

No. 15 seed Kuznetsova upset 8-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams in the fourth round. “It’s quite open, but you have to see how Serena will play,” Kuznetsova said. “If she’s in a good mood, not good mood, good feet, not good feet – you never know.”

“I’d like to congratulate Victoria for doing such a good job this year and in these four weeks,” Kuznetsova said in her runner-up speech both speaking in Spanish and English.

“I want congratulate Sveta for the great result,” Azarenka said.

“I know you’ve had a lot of ups and downs in your career and I’m so happy to see you again in top form producing some great tennis.”

Azarenka dedicated her 20th career title to her family, especially her parents.

Azarenka said that she’s celebrating her title by eating pizza.

The tennis season switches from the hardcourts of the Unites States to the clay courts of mostly Europe next week and Azarenka says she’s ready.

“Definitely very motivated for clay season. I always been a high favorite of proving people wrong, and that’s what also motivates me a lot.

“Going into clay season, people say it’s not my favorite surface and whatever, I’m going to work pretty hard to make sure it’s going to be my favorite surface. I’m going to put in the work that’s needed and the adjustments that’s needed.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Djokovic Gets Past Goffin, Joined by Nishikori in Miami Open Final

Djokovic Gets Past Goffin, Joined by Nishikori in Miami Open Final

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Miami, Ricky Dimon @Dimonator
Novak Djokovic booked a spot in his 13th consecutive final at the Masters 1000 and World Tour Finals levels by defeating David Goffin 7-6(5), 6-4 in the Miami Open semis on Friday afternoon. Djokovic improved to 27-1 on the season (his only loss has come via retirement) after two hours and five minutes.

Playing in his second straight Masters 1000 semifinal, having reached the same stage in Indian Wells, Goffin got off to a blistering start. The 15th-ranked Belgian survived a marathon service game at 2-3, after which he promptly broke Djokovic for a surprising 4-3 advantage. But the top-seeded Serb broke right back for 4-4 and never relinquished the momentum.

Djokovic gave back a mini-break at 4-3 in the tiebreaker, but he regained the upper hand with a return point at 5-4 before closing out the ‘breaker at 6-5. A more straightforward second set saw the world No. 1 use a single break at 3-3 to get the job done.

“I was aware of the level that he raised his game in last couple of months,” Djokovic said of his opponent. “And the fact that he played the first semifinals of a Masters 1000 event in his career in Indian Wells gave him–obviously–confidence coming into today’s match. I knew he [was] going to try to take his chances; going to try to be aggressive.

“It was evident that we both struggled with conditions today, especially after a tough start that…I think three games went 15 minutes and then the whole first set lasted for (an) hour and 15 minutes. Physically (it was) a great battle; lots of exchanges from the baseline.”

“With Novak you have a lot of balls to hit, and sometimes you’re feeling better game after game,” Goffin commented. “Yeah, that’s why I was feeling good on my baseline, so maybe that’s why it was a good match and it wasn’t scary [going up] against Novak.”

In the nightcap, Kei Nishikori had no fear against a confident Nick Kyrgios. With a remarkably clean performance, the Japanese star quieted the 20-year-old Australian 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 24 minutes.

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Nishikori gave back a break midway through the second set with a double-fault, but that was the only occasion on which he dropped serve. The world No. 6 made up for it by breaking Kyrgios at 6-5. He capitalized on his second match point with a lunging forehand volley at the end of an entertaining rally.

“It was tough straight from the get-go,” Kyrgios admitted. “I had pretty much one easy service game, and that was the first game. He’s just playing such good tennis. When he plays me, he plays so aggressive; doesn’t let me dictate points.”

Ricky Dimon is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Kuzentsova and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Finals

Kuzentsova and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Finals

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Karen Pestaina @TennisNewsTPN

A pair of former Miami Open winners and two-time major champions have reached the women’s final. Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 2006 winner of the Miami Open held off Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. 2009 and 2011 Key Biscayne winner, 13th seed Victoria Azarenka gained a little revenge from the Australian Open by beating No. 2 Angelique Kerber. Kerber beat Azarenka in the quarterfinals of Melbourne and went on to beat Serena Williams in the final to capture her first major title.

Kuznetsova knocked out eight-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round of Miami and survived four straight three-set wins to reach the semifinal.

The 30-year-old Russian at No. 19 in the world has become the lowest ranked finalist since 2005, when No. 38 Kim Clijsters won the Miami title.

Should Kuznetsova win the title, she would return to the top ten. She talked about her tournament so far.

“I just take match by match and I just go,” she said. “It’s one more match. I’ll play with another amazing opponent. I had great wins this week, but one match, it’s a lot. It’s almost like everything. It’s great, you know.

“I start really well playing in Sydney, and then Australian Open didn’t happen to me to play good there. But I still felt I was in good level. Then I kind of mess up with Fed Cup and all that results. It was not good for me.

“I didn’t feel going in that good shape going to the U.S. swing. I was not feeling confident at all. After I had a loss in Indian Wells I tried to work a lot and training every morning a lot just to get confidence back, get my fitness.

“I’m doing better. I’m appreciate, I am blessed I have my body to play so many years and to win against good players, top players. It’s great when things come together. Either way, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a great week. I’m really pleased and happy the way I fight through all these tournaments and weeks and players.”

On-court after the match, the former French Open and U.S. Open champion said she was happy wrapping up the match in straight sets.

“I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down,” said Kuznetsova.
“I’m happy I’m still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest.”

Azarenka advanced during the Thursday night session, improving her record this year to 21-1, not dropping a set during the tournament. Should the Belarusian win, she’d become only the third woman player to win the Indian Wells – Miami double in the same year.

Both Azarenka and Kerber produced hard-hitting shots with very exciting rallies. Azarenka had her serve broken, serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set but won the next two games to close it.

Azarenka broke the German’s serve seven time during the match, hitting 29 winners and only making 16 unforced errors.

“Vika, she is doing amazing,” Kuznetsova said about potentially playing her in the final. “She is extremely prepared. Playing really confident taking all her chances.”

Azarenka is 4-4 against Kuznetsova in head-to-head competition. The last time they faced each other was in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. Azarenka won the match and went on to win her second straight Melbourne crown.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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