Stephens thrilled to break into 'special' top 10

MIAMI • Sloane Stephens had cause for a double celebration after beating Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 to set up a Miami Open semi-final clash with Victoria Azarenka today.

The comprehensive triumph on Tuesday in tricky wind conditions over the former world No. 1 ensured the American 13th seed reached the last four in Key Biscayne for the first time.

It also means the reigning US Open champion will finally be named in the world's top 10 next week while Azarenka, who defeated fifth seed Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3, will also return to the top 100.

"I am so tired of hearing that I am No. 11 in the world," said a smiling Stephens. "It's very exciting to get there, something I have wanted to do for a while. Getting into the top 10 is pretty special."

Azarenka is enjoying her best run since the birth of her first child in December 2016 and faces Stephens just three weeks after they met in Indian Wells, a second-round match won by the latter 6-1, 7-5.

The Belarusian, who was given a wild card thanks to her 186th ranking, held her nerve to reach the last four of a tournament she won in 2009, 2011 and 2016.

"Every match is important right now, I hope it's a different story from last time we met," the two-time Australian Open champion said of her clash with Stephens.

In the men's draw, Germany's Alexander Zverev capitalised on a fast start against Australian Nick Kyrgios to grind out a 6-4, 6-4 victory. He will play Croat Borna Coric in the quarter-finals today.

Also advancing was Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Serbia's Filip Krajinovic 6-4, 6-2 for his 14th straight win as the fifth seed looks to build on his Indian Wells triumph.

"I will try to keep going and see how far I can go," said del Potro, who meets Milos Raonic in the last eight today after the Canadian cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Jeremy Chardy of France.

Elsewhere, Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta crushed compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-3 to reach the second Masters 1000 quarter-final of his career.

He will face South Africa's Kevin Anderson, who used his big serve to full effect in a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 win over American Frances Tiafoe, today. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Men's q-finals 2 & 3: StarHub Ch201, 9am & tomorrow, 3am Women's q-final 4 & s-final 1: Ch203, 7am & tomorrow, 1am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Stephens thrilled to break into 'special' top 10'. Print Edition | Subscribe