Victoria Azarenka made history at the Miami Open becoming a three-time winner of the championship. The two-time champion defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova won in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 at Crandon Park Tennis Stadium Saturday afternoon. The 26 year old joined Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters as the other women to win both Indian Wells and Miami back to back. For Azarenka herself, she accomplished a personal best winning a tournament three times in her career.
The two haven’t met in three years but the rivalry is hot between the Eastern Europeans tennis stars. Both won four times against the other with Azarenka having the upper hand the last three meetings. They last met here in 2009 when then eighth ranked Russian lost to the 15 ranked Belorussian in a three set semifinal. With a title on the line for both, one would try to win her second in ten years while the other tried to become the first woman since Kim Clijsters to win both Indian Wells and Miami back to back.
With history and a WTA title hanging in the balance both Azarenka and Kuznetsova would everything possible to break ahead. Kuznetsova had to work hard to get this far but her efforts were huge to defeat Serena Williams along the way. Azarenka used aggression, power and strong returns to win her way to the finals holding a 12 game winning streak together. With a chance to keep things alive on her end, the former number one who continues to climb up the ranks will hope to make history as well as progress to her season.
Azarenka started the match with a hard fight to win the break and did so quickly on the draw to take point. Her strong form came to light on her opening serve with such strong ground strokes that assisted in her in a double game point that ended with a net front attack from Kuznetsova before the Belorussian smashed it down for the win.
She was suddenly in control of every aspect of the game as she dominated against Kuznetsova’s serve winning the double break to take a 3-0 lead. Just when it looked as if things were perfect for Azarenka, she allowed herself to loosen up too much and hand the Russian her first win due to errors on the serve. She recovered quickly in the fifth once again blasting away on Kuznetsova’s service to return to a three game margin.
The Russian earned her second break working hard against the shots from Azarenka to get on break point and cut her lead in half. It seemed like the former number one had an answer against her opponent’s answer to win games. Azarenka conducted well on the break and won the seventh outright to serve for the set. For a second time when playing for it, Azarenka blew it with double faults during key points that handed another easy win to the Russian.
Azarenka once again regrouped taking a change of pace to the game that led her to a fourth break and a 1-0 lead in the match that ended in 40 minutes. The Belorussian had 4 double faults in the set but overwhelmed her Russian adversary who landed 10 of 15 on the first serve and just one out of eight on the second. Coach Carlos Martinez came out to try and get his player back in the match telling her to make serious changes to her attacks on court. Azarenka landed 93 percent of her shots deep in court while succeeding on the second serve landing seven of eight and 22 of 33 on the return.
The second set began with a hold of serve for Azarenka who remained consistent right off the mark. Kuznetsova gained her self a win to level up but the Belorussian broke serve in the fourth game to step out three games to one. A challenge from Kuznetsova came in the fifth but she couldn’t push Azarenka into deuce, which led to a three game hole for the Russian.
Azarenka’s game marched on maintaining hold over Kuznetsova who had the ball in her hands but couldn’t break her opponent with ease. She saved the game going on deuce where after the first break she gained her first advantage. She won it on a ball landing long for Azarenka that kept her alive through six. Another fight on deuce ensued between the two but the energy from Azarenka put her in position to win the championship with the ball once again in hands of Kuznetsova.
She had a good start but it all fell apart on unforced errors that gave Azarenka championship point. It was a four shot rally that ended with the Belorussian firing an angled line drive away from Kuznetsova ending the 1 hour 17 minute match. “I was really taking a lot of time away from her and attacking,” Azarenka said to ESPN’s Brad Gilbert. “She was changing a lot of rhythm and I really took my opportunities, stepped to the net a lot and there was some of the key points.”
The hard work that has come for her in the month of march puts her in an elite group of women who have won the title three times or more. “I feel blessed and very humbled to stand next to those amazing champions,” Azarenka said. “I’m very happy that all the work I’ve been putting in is paying off. I’m very happy to step out on the court and results are just great and I just want to continue and improve. This just gives me more inspiration and working harder because this feels great. The win is really important.”
The hard court tournaments take a break for the time which allows the players to get ready to play the next surface on the season. “I’m never expecting anything but I’m definitely going to work hard for it,” she said about the upcoming clay Court season. “I think my game is pretty well for the clay court season. I’m ready to take that second step but first I need to get back to work on my sliding and little patience.”