Friday, March 30, 2018

Stephens rallies for spot in Miami Open final

Stephens rallies for spot in Miami Open final
Stephens rallies for spot in Miami Open final

Sloane Stephens beat Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals at the Miami Open.

Stephens' opponent in Saturday's final will be Jelena Ostapenko, who beat Danielle Collins 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the other semifinal Thursday.

"In the first set, I was down but came back and I battled really well,'' said Stephens, who is looking to improve to 6-0 in finals. ''So I knew if I did that in the second I'd be right in there. I ended up winning a lot of games in a row, and just tried to keep the momentum going.''

Stephens dropped the first three games against Azarenka, needing only 11 minutes to get into trouble. She then won 15 of the final 21 games.

"I honestly didn't feel good at all the whole match," said Azarenka. "I felt like I was a little bit too slow. ... I just stopped getting to the ball, I stopped hitting the ball the way I should be hitting the ball and she's going to jump on it."

It was only the fourth tournament for Azarenka since 2016. She became a mother late that year - her son's name, Leo, is scrawled on the sneakers she wears in matches - and returned to play Mallorca and Wimbledon last year. Azarenka got a wild-card entry to play Indian Wells, another wild card into Miami, and was ousted by Stephens in both of those.

When she will play again is unclear. Azarenka has been involved in a custody dispute for several months and is headed back to Los Angeles, where she makes her home.

"I don't have any news to share with you right now," she said.

Azarenka entered this event ranked No. 186. She'll be at least No. 93 when the new WTA rankings come out next week, after getting through four seeded players on her way to the Miami semifinals.

"Overall, what I've done is not bad at all," Azarenka said, summing up her four-week return. "To make the progress from one week to another week, barely practicing and barely even eating, not too bad."

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