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Rediff.com  » Sports » Miami Open PHOTOS: Azarenka to face Kuznetsova in final; Krygios stuns Raonic

Miami Open PHOTOS: Azarenka to face Kuznetsova in final; Krygios stuns Raonic

April 01, 2016 10:51 IST

Photos from the matches played at the Miami Open on Thursday

Belarus' Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning a point against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their women's singles semi-final at the Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida, on Thursday

IMAGE: Belarus' Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning a point against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their women's singles semi-final at the Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida, on Thursday. Photograph: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

In-form Victoria Azarenka battled past an ailing but determined second seed Angelique Kerber to set up a Miami Open final showdown against Svetlana Kuznetsova with a 6-2, 7-5 victory on Thursday.

With the victory, the 13th-seeded Belarusian gained revenge for a quarter-final loss to the second-seeded German at the Australian Open, her only defeat of the season, but had to fight tooth and nail to earn it in a 94-minute tussle.

Kerber, who had her upper left leg covered in heavy strapping, looked dead and buried on several occasions in the second set but was able to stay alive with a gutsy break when Azarenka served for the match at 5-4.

Parity was short-lived, however, as Kerber handed back the break in the next game and Azarenka did not waste another opportunity to seal the deal to move one win away from a third Miami title and second straight tournament triumph.

"I am very happy I stayed really strong in the end and actually started really well," Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams to claim the Indian Wells title on March 20, said in a courtside interview.

"I started to dictate (early) and I think the beginning was really important," she added of the victory over the Australian Open champion.

"She's such a fighter and an amazing player. I'm glad I kept pushing and kept trying to break her rhythm. Glad I stayed really strong.

"For me it was really painful to watch my match from the Australian Open and I'm really glad that I corrected my errors there and improved my serve. Although there were a lot of breaks, when I needed it, it came strong."

Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova plays a backhand against Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky

IMAGE: Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova plays a backhand against Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As well as avenging the Melbourne defeat, Azarenka improved to 7-1 in head-to-head meetings against the German and took her 2016 record to an impressive 21-1.

Next up for the 26-year-old is Kuznetsova in the final, after the Russian held off a strong challenge from Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 in searing afternoon heat.

The 15th-seed relied on a never-say-die attitude and a powerful baseline game as she improved her career record to 3-0 against the Swiss, ending the match with a crunching backhand crosscourt winner after nearly two hours on court.

"I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down," Kuznetsova, who won the Miami title in 2006, said courtside.

"I have not been feeling my best but I have been fighting every ball and just trying to run as much as I could. "I was praying to finish it in two sets so I can have a little bit of time to rest," smiled the Russian, referring to Saturday's final.

Kuznetsova, who pulled off a stunning upset when she ousted world number one Williams in the fourth round, won a tight opening set after ending a brilliant baseline slugfest between the two with an overhead smash.

Though she failed to hold serve in the first game of the second set, the Russian broke her 19th-seeded opponent in the second and fourth games to lead 3-1, then fought back from 15-40 down on serve in the ninth to seal victory.

Nishikori, Kyrgios in semis

Japan's Kei Nishikori in action against France's Gael Monfils during their quarter-final

IMAGE: Japan's Kei Nishikori in action against France's Gael Monfils during their quarter-final. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Kei Nishikori withstood a blistering early assault and saved five match points before battling past Frenchman Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in a bruising quarter-final at the Miami Open on Thursday.

The Japanese number one will face 24th seed Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals after the Australian upset 12th seeded Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(4).

Sixth seed Nishikori appeared to have his match in control when leading 4-2 in the final set but his usually reliable forehand repeatedly let him down as he fell behind 4-5 0-40 on serve before mounting a gutsy fightback.

He saved four match points in that 10th game, and a fifth in the 12th, before racing into a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak as Monfils made a string of unforced errors, Nishikori finally sealing the win with a forehand crosscourt winner.

"When I was down 4-5 and 0-40, I thought I almost gave up the match," Nishikori, 26, told ESPN in a courtside interview after an epic encounter between two of the most athletic players on the ATP World Tour that lasted two-and-a-half hours.

"But I tried to play one point at a time and tried to focus on what I had to do, especially my serve. In the tiebreak, I just tried to focus again and fight harder."

Australia's Nick Kyrgios is congratulated by Canada's Milos Raonic after the former's straight sets quarter-final victory

IMAGE: Australia's Nick Kyrgios is congratulated by Canada's Milos Raonic after the former's straight sets quarter-final victory. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Nishikori, who also reached the last four in Miami two years ago, was left reeling in the opening set as the 16th-seeded Monfils played high-risk, aggressive tennis right from the start, highlighted by an explosive service game.

"I was a little bit surprised how he played, especially the first couple of games," said Nishikori.

"I was waiting for a little bit more long rallies and I wasn't expecting to play that fast so I had to make some adjustment."

Kyrgios took down his more fancied opponent in two sets to reach the last four for the first time in a ATP Masters 1000 event, riding a break in the first game of the match all the way to victory.

"I knew it would be a tough match. Milos has played great the last couple of weeks and the only person he’s lost to is Djokovic so I knew it would be a tough task," Kyrgios said.

"I played really well out here, the crowd was a lot of fun, the atmosphere was really good and I thought the level of tennis was really good as well.

"To be honest I didn’t think I was going to break during the match but I broke him in the first game. I came out really energetic and I got pretty lucky and that definitely made me more relaxed and made me play my game a little bit easier." 

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