Miami | Stephens blasts into final
Sloane Stephens is on a roll and is now showing why she won the US Open last year as she recovered from a poor opening set to defeat the aggressive Victoria Azarenka, a two-time grand slam champion, 3-6 6-2 6-1 to reach the final of the Miami Open.
In what was an impressive display, the victory was her second over the Belarussian in successive events.
For the first time I listened to my coach and I was able to get back into it. I just had to stay focused on myself Sloane Stephens
“I am really pleased with the way I fought back after the first set,” said Stephens, 25, who is targeting the sixth title of her career.
“You never know what can happen, I have really had to scrap it out, so to reach the final makes it so special.
“For the first time I listened to my coach and I was able to get back into it. I just had to stay focused on myself.”
Azarenka 28, was enjoying her best run since making her return to the tour full-time having been restricted in her movements by a judge during her custody court battle over her child. Having slipped to 186 in the rankings, she should now break back into the top 100 next week when the new listings are announced.
Meanwhile Stephens, who has suffered poor form since that heady day last September when she lifted the US Open trophy, will be delighted at reaching the final and breaking into the top ten itself.
She will face the reigning French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko who brought to an end the remarkable run of Danielle Collins, a qualifier, 7-6(1) 6-3.
It is the Latvian 20-year-old’s first final of the year and she was made to fight hard for it by the American qualifier ranked 94 as she fell behind in the first set to trail 1-3 and later saved a set point against her in the tiebreak.
But her powerful and aggressive play helped her to turn the match around as she hit 33 winners and forcing her opponent into a series of errors which grew as the match progressed.
“I knew it was gonna be a tough match, because I saw a couple of her matches this tournament and she was playing really on a high level, so I expected her to play this tennis” Ostapenko admitted.
The two had played each other in their junior days and also admitted that she wasn’t surprised at Collins run in Key Biscayne
“I was, like, 14 and she was 18. She was also hitting quite hard the ball,” the 20-year-sixth seed remembered
“But of course now she improved a lot. She was not missing today. She was going for the shots, serving well, very consistent. So I wasn’t surprised with the way she played.”
Ostapenko is aiming to collect her third title and first at Mandatory level and is expecting a tough encounter when she faces Stephens on Saturday I what will be the first meeting between the two grand slam title holders.
“I think I still have to be very aggressive and try to go for shots when I have to. And of course she’s a great player and it’s gonna be a tough match,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to it.”