Sharapova v. Azarenka in Saturday Screamfest Battle for Miami Title
Things will be noisy on Miami’s stadium court today when two of the most prolific screamers in tennis, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, tangle for the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open women’s title.
“I think she’s (Sharapova) louder,” Azarenka joked after her semifinal win over Vera Zvonareva. “But, yeah, every time we’ve been asked that, and, you know, there’s nothing you can do about it…. You’re going to have to wear earplugs.”
Both players have overcome a lot just to reach the Miami finals. The former No. 1 Sharapova’s career was in doubt two years ago after shoulder surgery. But the Russian has shown her unmatched will and determination this week to claw her way back into the Top 10 and on the brink of her biggest match in many years.
“I feel like I’m finding my form,” Sharapova said Thursday. “I was looking to play a lot of the matches before I came to Indian Wells. I really felt like with many matches and staying healthy that I would feel better and my form would start coming back to me, and my tennis as well. I feel that that’s playing out really well.”
Just six months ago in a scary sight Azarenka collapsed motionless on a US Open court. After struggles earlier this season and this month – she retired with a hip injury in Indian Wells, she’s now just one match win from her second career Miami title.
“Well, after Doha I took a little break and I started to think a little bit of what I wanted to do with my life,” Azarenka said. “Because it was a tough moment, you know, the beginning of the season. I realize that I really love the game and I have to change few things and just try a different way. It works out for me. I feel happy on the court. I feel really ready to battle any day.”
Sharapova and Azarenka have split their four previous meetings. Azarenka beat Sharapova 64, 61 in Stanford last summer in their most recent meeting.
“She plays really aggressive and swings really hard from both sides,” Sharapova said of her opponent in the final. “You know, a great returner. It’ll be tough. I lost to her the last time we played – in Stanford that was, I believe – so, yeah, I’ll look to change a few things around if I play her.”
Victoria Azarenka is bidding to become the 8th woman to win the Miami title twice or more; she won the title in 2009, defeating world No.1 Serena Williams in the final (1 of only 4 women to defeat Serena here, along with V.Williams, Hingis and Capriati).
Maria Sharapova is through to her 3rd Miami final; she finished runner-up in 2005 (l. Clijsters) and 2006 (l.Kuznetsova. This is the first time she has been ranked lower than her opponent in the final. Jennifer Capriati is the only player to lose her first three Miami finals (2001-03).
Azarenka and Sharapova are both contesting their first final of 2011. Before Miami, Azarenka’s best results were QF finishes at Sydney and Indian Wells, while Sharapova reached her first SF of 2011 at Indian Wells two weeks ago Azarenka is playing her 11th singles final, she is 5-6 in previous finals. Her 5th and most recent title came in her last final at 2010 Moscow; she has won 5 of her last 7 finals.
Sharapova is playing her 34th singles final, and her first since 2010 Cincinnati; she is 22-11 in previous finals. She has lost 3 finals since winning her most recent title at Strasbourg in May 2010 (Birmingham, Stanford, Cincinnati).
Sharapova is bidding to become only the 2nd Russian to triumph here, after Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006. As well as her two final defeats, Anna Kournikova (1998) and Elena Dementieva (2004) also finished runners-up here.
Sharapova is playing Miami for the first time since 2007. This is her 6th appearance here. Azarenka is playing here for the 5th year.
Sharapova’s QF win vs. Dulgheru was the longest singles match of the tournament so far at 3h 29min; she has won all 5 of her 3-set matches in 2011 (incl. SF win vs. Petkovic).
Azarenka was taken to 3 sets in each of her first 3 matches but then produced straight-sets victories vs. world No.2 Clijsters in QF and world No.3 Zvonareva in SF; they were her 6th and 7th Top 5 wins.
Sharapova’s win over world No.5 Stosur in 4r was her first Top 5 victory in more than 3 years (world No.1 Henin at 2008 Australian Open) ending a losing streak of 6 matches against Top 5 players.
Sharapova is projected to return to Top 10 for first time since the 2009 Australian Open at No.9, win or lose today Azarenka is projected to rise to No.7 by reaching the final and to No.6 if she wins the title (which would equal her career-high).
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