Victoria Azarenka continued her march to glory at the Miami Open. The 26 year old Belorussian dominated once again defeating Angelique Kerber 6-2, 7-5 at Crandon Park Tennis Stadium. It became the first time in over a decade that a player would be close to winning both WTA premier events consecutively.
The two have been quite active against one another this season. The Belorussian took home her first title of 2016 beating the German in straight sets in Brisbane. Kerber got revenge just two matches short of winning the Austrlian Open title for the very first time. Coming into the semifinals of the tournament, Kerber has show a tremendous comeback since winning the Grand Slam and finding that it’s not so easy to be a strong player.
She was knocked out in two straight tournaments before coming into Miami. Azarenka has been on the run of her life since winning her the Indian Wells tournament. She sat on an 11 game winning streak beating Johanna Konta in straight sets with the biggest obstacle now in her way. If she can remain vigilant and aggressive, it’s likely that she’ll get to the top.
Kerber opened the first set but despite gaining the lead in the game, her unforced errors ultimately cost her the chance to set a pace in the match. Azarenka thought she would take the break and build upon it but she as well racked up the unforced errors allowing Kerber a break of her own. The Belorussian broke once more in the third before she found a way to hold serve against Kerber having played three breaks before she accomplished it.
The two game lead turned into three as she used her forehand shot to break the German once more. Kerber’s attempts to push Azarenka behind the court were not working well as the No. 13 ranked player found ways to make the return moving slightly in to win the sixth.
It was looking to be a lock for Azarenka playing for the match in Game Seven until the German dictated direction of the ball and aggression to sit on game point. She nearly had it by two until a thrilling rally ended with Azarenka getting the last laugh on a shot near the net that Kerber couldn’t get to in time. The Belorussian forced deuce but it was Kerber’s game to win staying in it.
When Kerber got the serve back in the eighth, she was unable to stop her surging opponent who got onto set point and won it in 39 minutes. It was an impressive set by Azarenka who maintained a high 77 percent success on the first serve landing 15 of 23 and 17 of 29 on the return.
The two started the second set holding serve in the first pair of games and then broke one another on serve. It was a wild four games that elapsed but for the Belorussian, took lead in the game hoping that she could start her walk to victory. Kerber had other ideas following suit against the former number one to level back through six games. Azarenka had an huge answer in the seventh where she completely left the German star empty on serve winning the match’s first triple break. She then turned up the jets and cruised to a 5-3 score looking to try and win the match on return. Kerber shut down the opportunity but knew that it was going to take a huge win on the break to push the set further.
In a strange way, Azarenka committed two double faults while serving for the match but recovered with an ace to get on the board. It was 30 all on Kerber’s unforced error using the one handed slice instead of using two hands. Kerber thought she had a chance but fought on to successfully push the match forward as Azarenka once again committed a third double fault.
Azarenka regrouped quickly in the 11th to give herself another shot at sealing the match with her on the ball for the second time. The 12th became an edge of your seat with both Azarenka and Kerber scoring their first point in dramatic fashion. In what remained a close fight, Azarenka found the winning edge to stay ahead of the German and win the match on a ball that fell inches long of the court.
It ended the 93 minute match with the better player moving into her second straight finals appearance. In a stat that continues to blow the minds of the tennis world, Azarenka committed less than 18 unforced errors through the match in what was a battle of two superiors in the sport. “I’m very happy that I stayed really strong in the end and started really well,” Azarenka said to ESPN’s Mary Jo Fernandez. “I started to dictate and I think in the beginning it was really important.
“She(Kerber) is such a fight and such an amazing player,” she said “She got to so many balls, sometimes I just had to watch them but I’m glad that I kept pushing and tried to break her rhythm and step in so I’m glad I stayed really strong.” The Belorussian who is having the season of her life goes into Saturday where she’ll face Svetlana Kuznetsova for the title. “This is the match where you give it all and Svet has been playing well. She’s such a talented player and has so much experience. We haven’t played each other in awhile so its going to be interesting to see that matchup.”