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Kuznetsova Topples Serena Williams in the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Kuznetsova Topples Serena Williams in the Fourth Round at the Miami Open


IMG_0642_Kuznetsova

Serena Williams’ ninth title at the Miami Open has been deferred another year. The world number one was upended 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 by 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Although Williams’ battled her way into the fourth round, history was on her side. The ultimate time she was bounced prior to the quarterfinals was in 2000 by compatriot Jennifer Capriati.

With a 3-0 lead to open the match, Williams appeared in control. Not surprising considering her 8-2 record over her rival. However, the world number 19 returned the favor by capturing the next three games. After salvaging three break points on her serve to get 4-3, Williams failed to capitalize on two opportunities on her rival’s serve. As the Russian dug in her heels, the first set went to a tiebreaker. Serena claimed it in dramatic fashion with a return winner, a primordial scream followed.

At that point, Kuznetsova could have wilted under the humid South Florida weather. To the contrary, it was Williams who faded. Up 2-1, Kuznetsova performed like the two time majors champion that she is, forcing Williams into a bevy of mistakes. In less than 30 minutes, she pocketed the next four games to assure that the quarterfinalist would be settled by a third set.

For Williams the three time defending champion, more bad news was on tap. The top seed surrendered the initial gave of the decider at love. Soon, Kuznetsova sealed a double break 3-0 edge. Williams finally halted a run of eight consecutive games by her rival for 3-1. With an uncooperative serve and a sleuth of miscues from both the forehand and backhand wings, Williams had no reply to Kuznetsova’s brilliance. The Russian finished off the world number one and the match with a love hold.

Williams admitted that the loss is “obviously disappointing, but I’ve won here a lot, so it’s okay”. Neither climate nor injury was the cause “I’m used to this weather. . . This is what I practice in. . . physically I’m fine. . . I guess I didn’t move today. Maybe that was one of the things that didn’t work out for me. . . Actually don’t really feel pressure when I play here normally. I usually feel good.”

According to the world number one “I did the best that I could. I can’t win every match. The players come out and play me like they’ve never played before in their lives. . . I have to be 300% every day . . . I think overall I put a lot of expectations on myself more than anything. So that’s pretty hard to live up to.”

After losing a close first set, Kuznetsova did not sulk “I had opportunities and my goal was to keep a good level the whole match. . . I just knew I [could] hang in there and keep playing my game.”

The weather could be a distraction, so for Kuznetsova the key was to stay focused on her game “it’s really hot out there. . . I was trying to take longer time in between the points. . . I was trying to bring as many balls back as I could. . Some days she makes more winners; some days you should make her move more so she doesn’t do it. I think I did quite well what I had to do.”

The two clashed in the same round last year with Williams pocketing a straight sets triumph. Kuznetsova’s last win over the American was the French Open quarterfinal in 2009. The Russian recognizes that the road is long and treacherous to a second Miami Open trophy “I have so many people saying congratulations [they] feel like I won the title already. Not real. Now these days the tennis is extremely tough and each opponent is really difficult to play. I’m just focusing on tomorrow’s match. I don’t have too much time to rest. Really looking forward to give my best another day tomorrow.”

One of the keys to the match was Kuznetsova capturing 75% of first and 61% second serve points ” I knew I had to go for my serves. I think I barely did double fault. I knew I had to go aggressive. If I would give some easy second serves I would get my ass kicked out there. . . I’m not sure if I served that well, but it was good.”

By 2015 standards, for Williams thus far, 2016 has been a forgettable year. However Kuznetsova cited “she struggled a little bit probably because she lost Australian Open, but, she is still No. 1 and she still plays great. I don’t see much to be depressed about. . . players out of like top 30, they can beat anybody on good day. The thing is they cannot keep playing this good game. You can see some surprise wins in first two rounds. Everybody plays good now and goes for their shots and everybody is really strong. Not everybody can keep doing this during the whole tournament. . . I think every round is extremely tough now. I think will level of tennis is increased now, so it’s difficult.”

Upsets was the order of the day. In the first match, Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszki shocked 2012 Miami Open champion Agnieszka Radwanska. Subsequent to winning only two games the first set, the Swiss outplayed the world number three to record a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to her maiden quarterfinal in Miami. Simona Halep, ranked fifth, came through her contest with Britain’s Heather Watson unscathed with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title

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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title


IMG_9003_SerenaBy choosing South Florida as her base and lifting the trophy on seven prior occasions, the Miami Open is Serena Williams’ home. Consequently, this afternoon, first time finalist Carla Suarez Navarro needed to play the match of her career to steal the title from the two time defending champion. Williams romped Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-0 for a third successive Miami Open trophy, her eighth overall.

After coasting through the early stages, Serena averted close calls in the quarterfinals and semifinals. First, Williams fought off Sabine Lisicki 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, the player who ended her bid as defending champion for a sixth Wimbledon prize in 2013.

Next up, the world number one clashed with Simona Halep, the 2015 titlist at Indian Wells. Ironically, the Romanian received a walkover into the final from Williams at that event because of an inflamed knee. A match fit Serena battled herself, her opponent and the Romanian partisans but eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

The opening game was a glimpse of how the proceedings would unfold as Serena held at love. For a short time, Suarez Navarro managed to keep up and in the fifth game was at 30-30. However, with two aces, Serena moved ahead 3-2.

After the Spaniard dismissed double break point, Serena provoked a few errors and capitalized on her third break point. The American easily consolidated for 5-2. With another break, 17 winners, 8 unforced errors and in just 32 minutes, Williams secured the set.

Prior to the second set, Suarez Navarro conferred with her coach. His advice was to “change the rhythm, serve better, get the shots deeper”. Consequently, the first game of the second set, the Spaniard arrived at break point. But, with an ace, Serena dismissed the sole break point she stared at the entire match. Swiftly, Suarez Navarro surrendered the next game. The Spaniard won only two more points in the remainder of the match.

Suarez Navarro has yet to capture a set from the world number one in their five meetings. Moreover, this was Serena‘s fifth love set.

There were mixed feelings for Suarez Navarro after she shocked Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, then dispatched world number nine Andrea Petkovic to advance to the biggest final of her career, at one of only four mandatory premier tournaments.

The 26 year old expressed “ I came into the final with the firm belief that she could win.. . It was difficult to compete with her, I tried to be solid, however, with her strength it proved to be impossible.”

Still, Suarez Navarro affirms that “Serena is not unbeatable, she has more experience and success. People are aware that she beatable. But you have to play at a high level. My plan is keep believing and to work hard.”

Despite the score, Suarez Navarro attested that “ I enjoyed the tournament. it’s worth the pain, I fought till the end, you learn from these moments”. For her efforts, when the rankings are released, Suarez Navarro will be rewarded with the number 10 spot. Furthermore, she is the first Spanish female in the top ten since Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Every time Serena step on the court, she climbs a new benchmark. This week, she joined the exclusive 700 wins club, only the eighth female player to reach that mark.

In 2013, she surpassed Steffi Graf‘s all time record of five trophies at the Miami Open. Following her tenth final at the Miami Open, with losses only to Venus in 1999 and Victoria Azarenka in 2009, Serena cited “it feels really good to have eight under my belt. Can’t say I thought I would win, especially at the beginning of the week. . .each one is special. Some finals are long; some finals have been shorter. At the end, each one is a lot of hard work. ”

Yet, Williams’ celebration was muted “I was so focused out there today. When you’re winning 5-Love, 40-Love, it’s not a surprise. . .you’ve kind of accepted that you’re going to win . . . It’s different if it’s 5-All or 7-5. You don’t know which way it’s going to turn.”

Serena is only the fourth WTA competitors to bank the same title at least eight times. Will she be aiming for twelve at the Miami Open? Martina Navratilova won Chicago that many times “I hope not. Because I would still be here  I would be how old? Let’s pray that I don’t get to 12.”

With her 66th career prize, Serena is one title away from knotting Billie Jean King at number six on the roll call. Serena’s goal for the clay season “ I just want to stay consistent and get a little more fit. . . you have longer matches. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking to have fun.”

By collecting her 19th major at the Australian Open, Serena is for the sixth time in a position to pull off the calendar grand slam. Furthermore, Jennifer Capriati was the last person to hold both the French and Australian in 2001 “I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve never done it. . .I don’t think it’s necessarily tough. I just think that sometimes the tournament’s hard and you fall at the wrong time.”

For now, Serena will relish her recent triumph in Miami. Who knows one day instead of stadium court, it will be Serena Williams Stadium.

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Azarenka Overpowers Sharapova for Second Trophy at the Sony Ericsson Open

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Azarenka Overpowers Sharapova for Second Trophy at the Sony Ericsson Open



Victoria Azarenka placed her name among the elites at the Sony Ericsson Open. Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 to claim her second title at this tournament becoming the eighth woman to have won the title a minimum of two times.

Participating in Miami for the first time since 2007, Sharapova cruised to the quarterfinals. However, the Russian fought off Alexandra Dulgheru and Andrea Petkovic to reach her third final in Miami.

After difficult three setters to advance to the quarterfinals, Azarenka dominated defending champion and world number two Kim Clijsters and coasted to victory in the semifinals versus world number three Vera Zvonareva.

Azarenka was in the zone early on. In the initial game, after Sharapova had double game point, Azarenka connected on a forehand up the winner for break point. Despite Sharapova surviving that one, on her third break point chance, Azarenka converted.

With a few miscues by Azarenka, Sharapova broke back quickly to level the set at 1 all. Still, as a result of two consecutive double faults, Sharapova went down 0-30. Later, when Sharapova sent a forehand wide, Azarenka had the break for 2-0.

With Sharapova spraying forehands and backhands all over the place and ineffective on the return of serve, Azarenka rolled five consecutive games which included two additional breaks to take the first set.

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Not So Odd:  Serena Acquires Another Aussie Major

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Not So Odd: Serena Acquires Another Aussie Major


img_1710January 30, 2010

Defending champion Serena Williams’ proclivity to win the Australian Open in uneven years is well documented. Regrettably for Justine Henin, Serena decided not to stick to tradition in 2010.  In the final, Serena blocked Justine 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to claim her fifth Australian Open trophy.

Serena was under the gun from the first game. Williams dumped a forehand into the net to give Henin double break point.  But, as she has done over and over this fortnight, with good serves, Serena salvaged a four deuce game.  After holding serve, helped by the net, Henin earned another break point with a backhand return winner. Again, Serena erased the deficit with an ace.  Supreme at saving break points, Serena captured this five deuce game with an overhead winner for 2-1.  Subsequently, aided by a Henin double fault, Serena set up triple break point with a backhand crosscourt winner.  Williams capitalized when Henin’s forehand went wide. However, due to a rash of errors Williams faced double break point.  After saving one with an ace, Serena got a break when a backhand volley winner by Justine was mistakenly judged long; the point was replayed.  On the do-over, Serena consolidated for 4-1.  Later, Serena handed Justine two chances to get back on serve with a series of miscues.  With a forehand crosscourt winner, Justine did just that and went on to equalize the set at 4 all.  Yet, after Serena captured her game at love, Justine donated a couple of set points with a double fault and backhand error.  When Henin’s backhand skinned the net and landed long, Williams secured the first set.

In the second set, Henin and Williams traded roles. The second game, Justine came up with a couple of great serves to obliterate double break point.  Afterwards, with a backhand winner, Justine broke Serena at love for a 2-1 edge.  Still, the very next game, Henin allowed Williams to level the set.  At 2-3, after dismissing another break point, Henin reached a great drop and flicked a forehand volley crosscourt winner for advantage point.  When Serena netted another forehand, the set was equalized at 3.  Energized, the next game, Henin manufactured a second break opportunity with a backhand volley winner and converted when Williams’ backhand traveled long.  After Henin consolidated with a love game for 5-3; she broke Serena at love to capture the set.

In the decisive set, Henin opened with a love hold.  Then, when Serena’s attempt at serve and volley failed, Henin had double break point.  Once again, Serena bombed a couple of aces to shovel herself out for 1 all.  Subsequently, as Justine’s forehand up the line sailed long, Serena arrived at double break point.  With a sinking backhand stroke, Serena caused Justine to push the backhand volley into the net, thereby obtaining the break for 2-1.  But, with three consecutive forehand errors by Williams, Henin was at triple break point.  When Henin crushed a forehand return crosscourt, the set was equalized.  Still, with another double fault by Henin and a backhand up the line winner, Serena got another break opportunity.  Serena cashed in when Justine bungled an easy backhand crosscourt.  Despite pressure from her rival, Serena stretched her lead to 4-2 with a second serve ace. Then, with a dipping backhand, Serena forced Henin into a backhand volley mistake leading to two break opportunities.  When Henin’s backhand floated long, Williams took a commanding 5-2 edge.  Serena sealed the championship with backhand crosscourt winner.

As a former world number one, hopes were high that Henin would do well upon rejoining the tour.  Nevertheless, the final of her first two tournaments including a major, even for Henin, that is tantamount to a dream.  Just four weeks after returning, Henin will be ranked in the top 40.

In the quarterfinals against Victoria Azarenka, Serena had perhaps the comeback of her career.  After being ahead 6-4, 4-0, Azarenka who played spectacularly from start to finish came out on the losing end.  This was the hint that this would be yet again Serena’s year.  Serena becomes the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2002 to successfully defend.  Williams also ties Billy Jean King with 12 majors.

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