Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka have set up the first Miami semifinal. The two former Grand Slam champions just played earlier this month at Indian Wells with the American powering to a 6-1, 7-5 opening round win.
Azarenka, though, has won 11 straight matches in Miami. Tonight, the 3-time champion held on to take a scratchy first set then pulled away in the second to beat fellow-former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3.
“It feels really good,” Azarenka said. “Before the match I said it was going to be a great test for me to see where my game is at. I think it gives myself a lot of positive things to continue to work on.
“And seeing the progress that I made throughout this whole tournament, playing first round to playing a Top 5 player, I made a pretty good gap of improvement. So I want to continue to go down this path.
“I mean, I think I’m not a bad player, so I know how to win matches. I have a lot of experience. For me it’s important to stay healthy, to keep improving and to be able to play.”
In the afternoon, Stephens destroyed her fellow US Open winner 6-1, 6-2 to reach her first Miami semifinal.
“When you play a player like Angie… you have to execute your game well,” said Stephens afterwards. “And then you have to make sure that when you are executing your game you stick with it. Like a lot of times you can venture off and start, you know, doing other things.”
The win also puts the 25-year-old Stephens into the Top 10 for a first time in her career.
“Finally. Oh, my God,” Stephens said. “I’m so tired of them being, like, career-high ranking, No.11. Like, finally I can move in there.
“It’s awesome. Obviously something I have wanted to do for a while, and… it’s really not easy. Getting to No.11 was hard, and so getting into the Top 10 is pretty special. I’m super excited about that.”
Kerber has now lost her last four to Stephens and still has just one title in the last year (2018 Sydney).
“I was really feeling a little bit tired today,” Kerber said. “I mean, of course it was windy, it was tricky, but I have played so many matches in the last three months that I was feeling it a little bit today in my body… I was always one step too far away from the balls, and then I make the mistakes.”
But the German is looking forward to the next stretch of the tour.
“I was really working hard the last three months, actually the last four or five months with the offseason,” Kerber said. “And now I really need a little bit of rest to recover my body, my mind, and then getting ready for my surface that I really love. That’s the clay.”
Tomorrow, the second semifinal will be set. Three-time winner Venus Williams takes on American qualifier Danielle Collins and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko meets Elina Svitolina, the highest ranked player remaining.
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