Key Biscayne: Victoria Azarenka believes she's the best player in women's tennis, and recent results support her case.
Seeded 13th, Azarenka completed a rare Indian Wells-Key Biscayne double Saturday by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2 to win the Miami Open.
Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion mounting a comeback from injuries, defeated top-ranked Serena Williams in the Indian Wells final two weeks ago. She's only the third woman to win both tournaments in the same year, and the first since Kim Clijsters in 2005.
Steffi Graf did it in 1994 and 1996.
"It's an honor to stand next to those amazing champions," Azarenka said during the trophy ceremony. "This just gives me even more inspiration and motivation to keep working harder, because this feels great."
Before the final, Azarenka was asked if she's the best player in the world.
"I wouldn't go out there and kill myself every day if I didn't feel like that," she said.
There's no debating who's No 1 on the men's side. It's Novak Djokovic, who tries for a record-tying sixth Key Biscayne title Sunday when he plays Kei Nishikori.
Azarenka swept every set in her six matches to earn her third Key Biscayne title and her first since 2011. A former No. 1 player, she fell out of the top 30 in 2014 because of foot and thigh injuries, but will be back in the top five next week.
Kuznetsova endeared herself to Miami's many Latin fans by speaking Spanish during the trophy ceremony. The Russian then switched to English.
"I would like to congratulate Victoria for doing such an amazing job this year and these four weeks," Kuznetsova said.
Azarenka improved to 22-1 in 2016, with the lone loss to Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Azarenka avenged that defeat by beating Kerber this week in the semifinals.
The No. 15-seeded Kuznetsova upset eight-time champion Williams in the fourth round, one of her four consecutive three-set wins. The final was error-filled, perhaps reflecting the toll taken by such matches during a week of hot weather.
"It wasn't unbelievable tennis," Kuznetsova said. "I think we were both a little bit tired. I did what I could."
On a sunny, 88-degree afternoon, there was a break of serve in eight of the first nine games. Azarenka became so annoyed with her serve she kicked one stray ball over the net and whacked another into the 10th row, with the latter transgression earning her a code violation.
"It was pretty tough conditions with being so hot," Azarenka said. "The ball was flying."
She managed the lone hold in the opening set, and her play then became steadier. That left Kuznetsova doing most of the running, and her fatigue showed in the final game, when she staggered under an overhead and netted it.
Kuznetsova held serve only twice. She hit just eight winners to 23 for Azarenka.
While Azarenka is on a roll, Williams hasn't won a tournament since August. Even so, Kuznetsova said Williams remains the player to beat.
"It's quite open, but you have to see how Serena will play," Kuznetsova said. "If she's in a good mood, not good mood, good feet, not good feet — you never know."
The battle for No. 1 now switches from hardcourt to clay, not Azarenka's best surface. She has never reached the French Open final in nine tries.
"I think my game is pretty well suited to clay," she said. "I need to work on sliding and a little bit more patience, but I'm very excited."
First, however, she planned to celebrate her latest title.
"I'm going to eat some pizza," she said.
First Published On : Apr 3, 2016 10:54 IST