Miami | Alexandrova sees off Pegula, and will meet Collins in Last 4

Ekaterina Alexandrova followed up her astounding win over Iga Swiatek at the Miami Open on Monday by stunning Jessica Pegula to reach the semi-finals, where she will meet Danielle Collins, who dispatched Caroline Garcia in straight sets earlier in the day.

[I’m] trying to be more consistent on the baseline, not to rush things, and just play the points. Try to use the possibilities, and not be like, 'OK, like, it’s so easy, I’m just going to hit a winner right now, right from the first one’. You need to wait and wait and wait, and then something’s going to come, and you need to use it. So I think it’s helping me right now. Ekaterina Alexandrova

29-year-old Alexandrova, the14th seed from Russia, had never beaten a Top 10 opponent from a set down until Wednesday evening’s quarter-final tussle, which she came through, 3-6 6-4 6-4, after an hour and 58 minutes inside the Hard Rock Stadium.

“I think it’s more important for me, that I won this particular match,” she said on court afterwards. “It was incredible, it was so difficult to play against her.

“To play this match until the end, and win, it’s the biggest achievement for me, today on this court, and semi-final is a great bonus. I’m super pleased right now.”

Two days after surprising Swiatek for her first win over a World No 1, Alexandrova followed it up by denying 5th-ranked Pegula her return to the Last 16.

“It was extremely difficult for me because [Pegula] played amazing,” Alexandrova said afterwards. “In the third set, there were sometimes the kind of rallies where I couldn’t understand how it was possible to return that ball, but it always [came] back.

“I just tried to play every single point [like] I knew she was going to be everywhere, so I need to do something, and I was trying to wait and use any opportunities that I got.”

Pegula was nearly perfect behind her first delivery in the opening set, where she won 13 of her 14 first-serve points, a cool 92%, and, of the 28 points she won over those first 9 games played, 18 were courtesy of unforced errors from Alexandrova’s end of the court.

Jessica Pegula won an emphatic first set but was then overpowered by Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Hard Rock Stadium

© Al Bello/Getty Images

The Russian’s power game clicked into gear in the second, though, in which she had 15 winners to Pegula’s 4.

Finding more range and effectively using her crosscourt forehand, Alexandrova eventually served for a decider at 5-2, and although Pegula wiped one break deficit off the scoreboard, the Russian served it out at the second time of asking.

After 4 holds launched the final set, Alexandrova’s baseline pressure saw Pegula fire 73 and 69 mph second serves in succession, off which the Russian clubbed two deep returns down the middle to earn the break.

Pegula showed her true grit in the following game, getting back on serve after converting her 4th break point chance.

The Russian double-faulted an early break away, putting the set at a 3-3 deadlock, but Alexandrova then took another chance 2 games later, moving ahead with aggressive returns and finishes in the forecourt to break the American for 5-4.

In the following game, Alexandrova converted her 2nd match point to seal the come-back win against a gritty opponent.

The win is Alexandrova’s 3rd against a Top 5 player this year, and she said her success was the result of developing patience.

“[I’m] trying to be more consistent on the baseline, not to rush things, and just play the points,” she said. “Try to use the possibilities, and not be like, ‘OK, like, it’s so easy, I’m just going to hit a winner right now, right from the first one’.

“You need to wait and wait and wait, and then something’s going to come, and you need to use it. So I think it’s helping me right now.”

Alexandrova finished with 40 winners to 61 unforced errors, and won 3 fewer points than Pegula.

The win sees her improve on her 2023 Miami showing when she fell to eventual title holder Petra Kvitova in the Last 8.

Before ousting Swiatek and Pegula for her second WTA 1000 semi-final, the 29-year-old previously knocked out Donna Vekic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Another American, Danielle Collins, stands between Alexandrova and a biggest career final.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” Alexandrova said of facing Collins for the first time. “There’s no easy match here, and the further you go, the tougher the matches. I’m hoping it will be a good one.”

Danielle Collins out-classed Caroline Garcia in their quarter-final match on Wednesday evening

© Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Collins is a former Australian Open runner-up but unseeded, and has returned to Last 4 for the first time since 2018 after dismissing 23rd-seed Caroline Garcia, 6-3 6-2, in 80 minutes.

“Right now, I’m timing the ball really well,” she told the media afterwards. “I think I have made some physical adjustments too that’s, kind of, helped me be able to, kind of, control my shots more, and hit them with more accuracy and precision. I have been working on that for a while.

“I think a lot of these sports psychology books, they talk about being in the zone, almost feeling like you’re hitting beach balls. I think it can feel like that at times. That’s a good thing.

“In other times that I have played well, and have had deep runs in tournaments, it’s been like that. And then in other times, it’s like going out to the golf range, and having a bad day and you’re missing shots.

“But right now I’m timing the ball really well.”

Collins, who is seeking her first title since 2021 San Jose, when she won her second career WTA trophy in the span of 3 weeks, powered into the Last 4 with an emphatic win over the Frenchwoman, who came into the quarter-final on the back of an upset win over 3rd-seeded American Coco Gauff, but was unable to get a foothold against the Floridian.

Garcia still appeared to be troubled by an injury to her right shoulder, and received some treatment early in the second set.

Collins broke to go 5-3 up in the first, and then held serve for the set, before breaking again in the 3rd game of the second, and she never looked back as she wrapped up the win in an hour and 19 minutes.

23rd-seeded Caroline Garcia, who struggled with both Danielle Collins and a recurring shoulder injury, lost in straight sets

© Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It took 22 winners for the American to dispose of Garcia, and improve to 4-0 all-time in their match-up, after she had converted a blistering 90% of her first-serve points, 26 of 29, without facing a single break point.

“I think, depending on the match-up, some people are more favourable against others,” Collins said. “I think Caro comes out here, and fights her butt off. She hits some really strong shots … and I don’t think the set scores are a reflection of how close the match really is.

“Against someone like Caro, it forces me to be more concentrated, because I know I don’t want to give her an inch.”

The 30-year-old, who has yet to lose a set to the Frenchwoman in their 4 meetings, converted 3 of her 8 break-point chances, while Garcia hit 12 winners but won just 11 total points against the Collins serve.

In Wednesday’s match, Collins also struck 22 winners to Garcia’s 12.

Later, the Frenchwoman admitted that she had suffered from playing back-to-back tournaments.

“It’s been a long two weeks for the body for me, between the back at the beginning, and then the shoulder, which came back,” she told reporters. “I think it’s nothing too serious but [the shoulder] is always quite problematic for a tennis player,” adding that Collins had played ‘an amazing match’.

This win marks the first time Collins has won 5 consecutive matches on the WTA Tour since the 2022 Australian Open, when she reached her first Grand Slam final.

Collins intends to retire at the end of the year and appears more relaxed on court.

“I think I feel pretty relaxed, but that could be due to a number of things,” she said. “I’ve got a new hobby. I’m playing some more golf, running more, Pilates, all of these different things.

“My dog is here. I’m feeling relaxed because I get to be with him at night. I don’t know,” she added with a smile.

As for facing Alexandrova for the first time on Friday, Collins added: “She has had an incredible run and incredible couple of months. It’s been great to see how her game has evolved over the years, and the way that she’s been playing has been really exciting.

“With the way I’m playing, there’s certainly a lot to be pumped about. I like to show the positive body language and the fan support I’m getting here is amazing.”

Thursday will see the opening semi-final between 3-time Miami winner Victoria Azarenka from Belarus and Kazakhstan’s 4th-seeded Elena Rybakina, the highest ranked player left in the tournament.



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