Tennis: Azarenka avenges Kerber loss to reach Miami final

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns a shot to Angelique Kerber of Germany.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns a shot to Angelique Kerber of Germany. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - In-form Victoria Azarenka battled past an ailing but determined second seed Angelique Kerber to set up a Miami Open final showdown against Svetlana Kuznetsova with a 6-2, 7-5 victory on Thursday.

With the victory, the 13th-seeded Belarusian gained revenge for a quarter-final loss to the second-seeded German at the Australian Open, her only defeat of the season, but had to fight tooth and nail to earn it in a 94-minute tussle.

Kerber, 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 in a courtside interview.

Next up for the 26-year-old is Kuznetsova in the final, after the Russian held off a strong challenge from Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 in searing afternoon heat.

The 15th-seed relied on a never-say-die attitude and a powerful baseline game as she improved her career record to 3-0 against the Swiss, ending the match with a crunching backhand crosscourt winner after nearly two hours on court.