Tennis: Victoria Azarenka wins WTA Miami Open title

Azarenka holds her trophy after defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
Azarenka holds her trophy after defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.PHOTO: EPA

MIAMI (AFP) - Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka captured her third WTA Miami Open title on Sunday by defeating two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Azarenka, who also took the trophy in 2009 and 2011, won her 20th career title and third of the year after Brisbane in January and two weeks ago at Indian Wells, where she beat top-ranked Serena Williams in the final.

“I have so many great memories here,” said Azarenka. “It’s always a pleasure to come here. Hot tennis is amazing this month.”

The 26-year-old from Belarus became only the third woman to sweep the Miami-Indian Wells double in the same season, after Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996 and Kim Clijsters in 2005.

Azarenka will jump from eighth to fifth in the world rankings on Monday, her first time in the top five since March 2014.

Azarenka dedicated the title to her parents, Alla and Fedor, saying, “They gave me roots to know where I come from and wings to fly so I could be here.”

Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami champion, will jump from 19th to 13th in the world rankings next week.

Azarenka won her fourth meeting in a row over 30-year-old Kuznetsova without dropping a set to seize a 5-4 lead in the career rivalry.

Azarenka broke Kuznetsova five times in the first set, including the final game when the Russian sent a forehand wide to surrender the set after 40 minutes.

Azarenka, broken three times herself but crucially able to hold serve in the second game, had five double faults and connected on only 48 per cent of her first serves in the opening set, winning just 40 per cent of those points and taking only 36 per cent on her second serve.

But Kuznetsova, while hitting 75 percent of her first serves in the match, also won only 45 per cent of those points and just 14 per cent off her second serve.

Both struggling players kicked balls at times in their first-set frustration.

Each held to start the second set, Kuznetsova doing so for the first time in the match, but Azarenka broke at love for a 3-1 edge, an overhead smash sealing the game.

Azarenka squandered a break chance in the sixth game by swatting a forehand wide but denied Kuznetsova a break point in the seventh game with her only ace of the match and held to take a 5-2 lead.

She then broke Kuznetsova for the seventh and final time with a backhand winner, her 23rd against only eight by Kuznetsova, to end matters after 77 minutes.