Sloane Stephens knocks out Azarenka for first Miami final

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Sloane Stephens: rallies past Victoria Azarenka for her first Miami Open final

US Open champion, Sloane Stephens has rallied her way to her first Miami Open tennis final, beating Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

It was the second time in three weeks that the American would halt Victoria Azarenka’s comeback from maternity leave. She did it in the second round of Indian Wells.

On Thursday, the No.13 seed did it again – but via a tougher route, overcoming the wildcard 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and ending an 11-match Floridian winning streak that stretched back to 2015 for Azarenka.

This time last year, Stephens’ foot was in a cast as she recovered from surgery and Azarenka was nursing a three-month old. Both returned to competition during the grass season last year; but while the past nine months have seen the American make a phenomenal Slam-winning comeback, the former World No.1 has been confined to just four events in the same time-frame due to personal issues.

Stephens was excited about her feat: “This is so cool! I’ve been playing tennis in Key Biscayne since I was 11 years old. For me this is so incredible to have friends and family here. Just have to take advantage of the last year here!”

“I just knew I had to keep fighting. In the first set I was down but I battled back so I knew if I did that in the second, I’d be right in there,” the 25-year-old American said in an on-court interview.

“I ended up winning a lot of games in a row and I just tried to keep the momentum going.”

Wednesday night, qualifier Danielle Collins overpowered her childhood idol Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 in a stunning quarter-final upset.

Collins, belying her 93rd ranking, pounded winner after winner to beat fellow American Williams at her own game and set up a semi-final against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Latvian Ostapenko overpowered Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina in two tiebreaks to win 7-6(3) 7-6(5) in an afternoon match to reach the Miami semis for the first time.

The two players will meet at 2am Friday Nigerian time to decide the second finalist.

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