Rybakina 'switched off mind' to beat Azarenka in Miami

2 weeks ago 22

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina moved into the Miami final for the second straight year with a gutsy win against Victoria Azarenka in a deciding tie-break.

Kazakhstan's Rybakina, 24, recovered from an awful second set to win 6-4 0-6 7-6 (7-2) against the Belarusian.

Rybakina showed resilience in the final stages, having led 5-3 before losing serve at 5-4 as Azarenka levelled.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion will face unseeded Danielle Collins, who upset 14th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Last year, Rybakina was beaten by Czech Petra Kvitova to the trophy as she aimed to complete the 'Sunshine Double' of back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami.

Now she is the favourite to land the WTA 1,000 prize against American Collins, who is planning to retire from the tour at the end of the season.

Former Australian Open runner-up Collins, 30, needed six set points to wrap up the first set against Russia's Alexandrova before dominating the second to reach the WTA 1,000 final of her career.

Rybakina's composure is one of her greatest strengths - along with her huge serve and speed - and the ability to stay calm in the face of adversity is what ultimately got her through against former world number one Azarenka.

"It was such a tough battle, this tournament was a target from day one and I'm glad I made it to the final," said Rybakina, who missed Indian Wells earlier this month through illness.

"I knew I would fight till the end and that's what I did. I switched off my mind in the tie-break and just went for it."

After taking the opening set with a single break midway through, Rybakina only won five points - including losing 16 points in a row - in a second dominated by former world number one Azarenka.

Rybakina had not faced a break point in the deciding set until she served for the match at 5-4, saving the first with a nerveless ace.

However, she was dragged around the court by 32-year-old Azarenka on the second before putting a volley into the net.

Three-time Miami champion Azarenka, whose fighting spirit has been one of the cornerstones of her successful career, whipped up the crowd as she tried to feed off the energy.

But Rybakina was unperturbed. She reset and played aggressively to dominate the tie-break, taking the second of five match points with a forehand winner to clinch a 74-minute deciding set.

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