Azarenka to face Kuznetsova in Miami Open final
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 01, 2016 10:12 AM
Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, celebrates after winning 7-5, 6-3, against Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, during the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — When Serena Williams made an early exit at the Miami Open, the next generation of women's tennis wasn't quite ready to fill the void.
Instead it will be former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka in the final Saturday.
Eight-time champion Williams was beaten by Kuznetsova in the fourth round, and then the Russian just kept winning. In the semifinals Thursday, she erased 12 of the 14 break points she faced in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Timea Bacsinszky.
Kuznetsova, 30, is back in the final 10 years after she won the tournament.
"It means I've been a lot of times out here in front of you guys," she told the crowd with a laugh.
Kuznetsova hadn't enjoyed much success at Key Biscayne in recent years, but she won four consecutive three-setters to reach the semifinals. At No. 19, she is the lowest-ranked women's finalist in the event since No. 38 Kim Clijsters earned the 2005 championship.
"I'm happy I could hang in there," Kuznetsova said. "I haven't been feeling my best, but I've been fighting with every ball and trying to run as much as I could."
Azarenka advanced by beating No. 2-seeded Angelique Kerber, 6-2, 7-5. Azarenka, who won the tournament in 2009 and 2011, has yet to drop a set in this year's tourney and is bidding to become only the third woman to win Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in the same year.
Against Kerber, Azarenka broke serve seven times, hit 29 winners and committed only 16 unforced errors.
"I stayed very strong in the end," Azarenka said. "She's such an amazing player. She got to so many balls; sometimes I just had to watch them. But I'm glad I kept pushing."
In men's play, No. 6-seeded Kei Nishikori overcame five match points and beat No. 16 Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Next up for Nishikori is a Friday night match against No. 24 Nick Kyrgios, who reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal by beating No. 12 Milos Raonic in a matchup of big servers, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Monfils became soaked with sweat on a steamy afternoon but rallied from a break down in the final set. Nishikori fell behind 0-40 serving at 4-5 but erased those match points and another in that game, and overcame one more match point serving in the 12th game.
"I thought I almost gave up the match," Nishikori said. "It was tough conditions. Especially the last couple of games, I don't know what I was thinking."
Kyrgios erased all five break points he faced and earned the only service break in the opening game.
"To be honest I didn't think I was going to break during the match," Kyrgios said. "I came out really energetic and got pretty lucky. That definitely made me more relaxed."
Five-time champion Novak Djokovic will face David Goffin in the other semifinal.
American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who turned 38 this week, lost in the semifinals of doubles to Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 6-3, 6-3. The Bryans hold a record 16 Grand Slam titles but haven't won a tournament since August.
Kuznetsova earned the first break of her semifinal in the 10th game of the grueling, 65-minute first set. She broke three consecutive times in the second set to pull away from the No. 19-seeded Bacsinszky.
"I was playing to finish it in two sets so I have a little bit of time to rest," Kuznetsova said.
If Kuznetsova wins the title, she'll return to the top 10 for the first time since 2010. She's already assured of surpassing $20 million in career prize money.
Speaking of which: The 15-year veteran weighed in on the recent debate about prize money, saying women on tour deserve the same pay as men.
"My thing is, guys that travel can have kids. They can have a family, right?" she said. "We cannot. Since 16, I am a professional. I gave up everything — friends, home. We give more than 100 percent. ... We're not taking their money. We just want to earn the same."
However, Kuznetsova said she's opposed to women playing best-of-five matches in major tournaments, as the men do.
"I don't think it makes sense," she said. "You will see us struggling, cramping, squeezing and yelling. It's going to look weird."