WTA Miami: Sloane Stephens rallies to beat Victoria Azarenka, reaches Miami final

Kristopher Nichols
March 31, 2018

"The first time I saw Venus in the locker room I almost cried", Collins admitted. She played nearly flawless tennis to snap up four points in a row and allow her opponent just one point, closing it out 7-1.

"I think maybe the other tournaments I was trying to play more balls in the court and without any aggression" she had admitted before the match.

Stephens endured an alarming fall from grace after her sensational US Open triumph last September, going five months without a win before stopping the rot at the Mexican Open.

In her first WTA Premier Mandatory final Ostapenko, who scored back-to-back main draw wins for just the second time in 2018, will meet for the first time Sloane Stephens, yet unbeaten in career title matches. Stephens has rediscovered that balance of aggression and defense-lots of running with just enough shotmaking sprinkled in-that, at its best, can leave virtually any of her opponents in the dust.

A reigning Grand Slam champion smacked down American Danielle Collins's sky-high dreams Thursday night. She'll be at least No. 93 when the new WTA rankings come out next week, after getting through four seeded players on her way to the Miami semifinals. She went through coaches like a magician goes through silk scarves.

No qualifier has ever gone this deep at Key Biscayne, though Collins looked perfectly comfortable on the stage.

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Azarenka, back playing on tour following a lengthy legal dispute with her ex-partner over the custody of their son, was a set and a break up in the semifinal as she edged close to reaching a fourth final at the tournament, though the American roared back and dropped just two more games.

Williams is known as a strong server but Collins stood firm and matched her. Here it was Ostapenko - who has yet to lose a tiebreak here in Miami - that rose to the occasion, extending that record against Collins.

Williams is one of the most decorated players in women's tennis history.

Stephens was raised in Plantation, around an hour north of Key Biscayne and is expecting her friends and family to turn up in "full force".

The Belarusian might have performed little aggressive tennis in late years however had a respectable streak in Miami, including success over Czech world number six Karolina Pliskova at the quarter finals. However, Williams only won one more game in the match as the 24-year-old Collins ran out the victor. "I wasn't playing terribly", Stephens recalled. "I had to make sure I was in a good place". He faced only one break point on Wednesday. Collins and Ostapenko didn't start until 10 p.m. Ostapenko won a tournament, in Seoul, South Korea, last fall.

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