MIAMI • The Miami Open women's final today will be a meeting between two resurgent former Grand Slam champions, after Victoria Azarenka battled past second seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 7-5 on Thursday.
With the victory, the in-form Belarusian tennis star gained revenge for a quarter-final loss at Melbourne Park to the eventual Australian Open champion, her only defeat of the season (21-1).
The German, who had her upper left leg covered in heavy strapping, looked dead and buried on several occasions in the second set but was able to stay alive with a gutsy break when Azarenka served for the match at 5-4.
Parity was short-lived, however, as Kerber handed back the break in the next game and Azarenka did not waste another opportunity to seal the deal to move one win away from a third Miami title and second straight tournament triumph.
"I am very happy, I stayed really strong in the end and actually started really well," Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams to claim the Indian Wells title on March 20, said after the 94-minute tussle.
"I started to dictate (early) and I think the beginning was really important."
Next up for the 13th seed is fellow two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian held off a strong challenge from Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 in searing afternoon heat to reach her 38th career final.
The 30-year-old then weighed in on the gender pay equity issue raised last week, when the then-Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore and top-ranked Novak Djokovic made comments knocking level prize money for men and women at tennis events.
She said men can have children and start families in their 20s without surrendering a year or more of their careers, while women athletes have to sacrifice having children and raising families during the peak years of their playing careers.
Said the 15th seed: "Some of the men say we shouldn't get the same prize money. The guys that travel on the road, they say they give more than we do.
"But they can have kids. They can have a family, right? We cannot.
"I've played since I am 14. Since 16, I am a professional. I was playing eight months a year every year. I didn't have anything. I gave up everything. Friends. Home.
"I think we do deserve (equal pay). We give more than 100 per cent. We give our life. I think we're owed that."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE