Two-time Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the women's final with straight-set triumphs at the ATP and WTA Miami Open.
When Serena Williams made an early exit, the next generation of women's tennis wasn't quite ready to fill the void.
Instead it will be former champions Kuznetsova and Azarenka in the final Saturday.
Eight-time champion Williams was beaten by Kuznetsova in the fourth round, and then the Russian just kept winning. In the semi-finals Thursday, she erased 12 of the 14 break points she faced in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Timea Bacsinszky.
Kuznetsova, 30, is back in the final 10 years after she won the tournament.
"It means I've been a lot of times out here in front of you guys," she told the crowd with a laugh.
Kuznetsova hadn't enjoyed much success at Key Biscayne in recent years, but she won four consecutive three-setters to reach the semifinals. At No. 19, she is the lowest-ranked women's finalist in the event since No. 38 Kim Clijsters earned the 2005 championship.
"I'm happy I could hang in there," Kuznetsova said. "I haven't been feeling my best, but I've been fighting with every ball and trying to run as much as I could."
Azarenka advanced by beating No. 2-seeded Angelique Kerber, 6-2, 7-5. Azarenka, who won the tournament in 2009 and 2011, has yet to drop a set in this year's tourney and is bidding to become only the third woman to win Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in the same year.
Against Kerber, Azarenka broke serve seven times, hit 29 winners and committed only 16 unforced errors.
"I stayed very strong in the end," Azarenka said. "She's such an amazing player. She got to so many balls; sometimes I just had to watch them. But I'm glad I kept pushing."
"It's a final so anything can happen. It's a match where you give it all," Azarenka said. "She is such a talented player. It's going to be a challenge but I'm ready for it."
Kuznetsova and Azarenka have split eight career meetings, but Azarenka has won the past three without dropping a set, most recently in the 2013 Australian Open semis.
"Vika, she is doing amazing," Kuznetsova said. "She is extremely prepared, playing really confident, taking all her chances."
Azarenka seeks US double
Azarenka, ranked eighth, improved to 7-1 against Kerber, the only loss coming in this year's Australian Open quarter-finals, by breaking the second seed three times in the first set and four in the second.
Azarenka, the 2009 and 2011 Miami champion, will crack the world top five for the first time since May 2014 and could become only the third woman to win Miami and Indian Wells back-to-back after Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996 and Kim Clijsters in 2005.
Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami winner, ousted top-ranked Serena Williams in the fourth round while Azarenka downed Williams in the Indian Wells final.
Kuznetsova, at 19th, is the lowest-ranked Miami finalist since 2005, but she would jump into the world top 10 for the first time since May 2010 by taking the title.
(With inputs from AFP and AP)
First Published On : Apr 1, 2016 16:26 IST