From day one, Vika had looked the most likely player to take the women’s trophy at 2016 Miami Masters at Key Biscayne. The 13th seeded Belarusian didn’t belie expectations on Saturday as she quelled the challenge thrown by Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova and emerged a third-time champion at Miami. With this victory, Azarenka completed a rare Indian Wells-Key Biscayne double of winning both tournament in the same year. Only two other women have achieved this feat in the past with Steffi Graf doing it twice in 1994 and 1996 and the last time someone achieved this double, was Kim Clijsters in 2005.
Ever since the 2016 season began, Vika announced her intentions of mounting up the rankings’ ladder and when the new announcement comes on Monday, she would have jumped to no.5 in the world. The former world no.1 fell out of top 30 in 2014 because of several injuries but after coming back last year, she has constantly been working her way to the top. She looked in command at the 2016 Australian Open until Germany’s Angelique Kerber foiled her plans in the quarterfinals but two weeks ago, the Belarusian defeated world no.1 Serena Williams in straight sets at Indian Wells.
At Key Biscayne, Vika didn’t drop a set in the six matches that she played but the score line of 6-3, 6-2 in the final against Kuznetsova may not tell the true picture of the title game. The afternoon heat at South Florida was sweltering and both finalists found it hard to cope with the sizzling weather conditions. In the opening set, Azarenka began by breaking Kuznetsova’s service and holding her own for a 2-0 lead. Then the next seven games went on service breaks and it was the break of Kuznetsova’s service in the ninth game that resulted in the first set falling in Vika’s lap. As the temperature soared to 88-degree F, the contestants found it hard to keep their focus. In frustration, Vika kicked a ball and whacked another into the back rows full of crowd. She earned the wrath of the chair umpire, who promptly issued her a code violation. In the second set, Azarenka regained her composure and played much better. It was here that Kuznetsova was made to run from pillar to post as Vika kept generating volley from the baseline on either side of the Russian. The fatigued Kuznetsova had to throw in the towel against the charged-up Azarenka as the match ended 6-3, 6-2 in favor of the Belarusian. In all, Vika produced 23 winners to the Russian’s 8. Another factor that worked against Kuznetsova was the number of unforced errors that she committed. She had 22 of them compared to 18 by Azarenka.
As the action of this season’s tennis shifts to clay, Azarenka may find the going a bit tough because clay is not her favored surface. This is evidenced by Vika never reaching the final of the French Open in 9 attempts. But the Belarusian looks good this season. Serena Williams has no title under her name since she won the 2015 Western & Southern Open at Cincinnati last August. In the meanwhile, Azarenka has made quick strides with a focus of regaining the lost glory.