Elena Rybakina into Miami final despite meltdown against Victoria Azarenka

Elena Rybakina into Miami final despite meltdown against Victoria Azarenka

The fourth seed, Elena Rybakina, overcame a second-set meltdown to beat the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (2) on Thursday and secure a return trip to the Miami Open final.

Rybakina, the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw, won nearly 82% of her first-serve points but converted only two of her 11 break-point chances en route to securing victory in two hours and 33 minutes.

“It was such a tough battle,” Rybakina, a Moscow-born Kazakh, said during her on-court interview after reaching her fourth final of the year. “I didn’t serve that well and also Vika, from the second set, she was hitting the serve very well. It was difficult but I knew was going to fight until the end and actually that’s what I did.”

In the opening set, Rybakina squandered her first five break-point chances before solving Azarenka’s serve to grab a 4-3 lead and she leaned on her astonishing power before closing out the 51-minute set with a hold to love.

Azarenka refused to go quietly, however, conjuring up a flawless display in the second set in which she limited Rybakina to five points and broke her serve three times to force a decider.

Rybakina, after a change of outfits, opened the third set moving much better and broke at the fifth attempt in the fifth game to move 3-2 up when Azarenka splashed a backhand into the net. Rybakina crumbled in her first chance to serve out the match, however, as Azarenka got a break to get to 5-5 after she chased down a drop shot before her opponent sent a backhand volley into the net.

Rybakina, serving to stay in the match, held to love to force a tiebreak and she won the first three points of it before closing out the win. Rybakina, a title winner this year in Brisbane, Abu Dhabi and Doha, will next face either American Danielle Collins or Russian 14th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Meanwhile, the German fourth seed Alexander Zverev overcame tricky conditions to beat Hungary’s Fabian Marozsan 6-3, 7-5 to reach the men’s semi-finals.

Zverev attacked Marozsan’s serve and converted three of his seven break-point chances, swatted aside the two break points he faced and won 80% of his first serve points en route to the last four in Miami where he has yet to drop a set.

Despite not dropping a set in windy conditions, Zverev had his hands full with Marozsan, who is making his Miami debut and enjoyed top-10 upsets over Holger Rune and Alex de Minaur on the way to the quarter-finals.

“If he continues playing like that he’s going to rise up the rankings very quickly and he’s going to be one of those [top 10] guys himself,” Zverev said in his on-court interview.

“I think all top players, when they are in control, they feel like they can manage the match, manipulate the match a little bit in their own favour. But against him that’s not possible. That’s why he has such a great top-10 record and he’s an unbelievable player.”

Zverev’s win, sealed with a break when he unleashed a brilliant backhand down the line, marked his return to the Miami Open semi-finals for the first time since his runner-up finish in 2018.

Zverev will next face either Spanish top seed Carlos Alcaraz or Bulgarian 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov.