This is looking very much like a tale of past champions with their own journeys to fulfil. Azarenka is hunting the Indian Wells/Miami Double for the first time in her own career, joining Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters as the only other women to do so. In Indian Wells she was very much the battler, and came through a tough battle against Karolina Pliskova, before playing the perfect final to beat Serena Williams in an emotionally charged final.
Kuznetsova stunned Williams in the fourth round of this tournament, and battled through the conditions and fatigue- every other one of her matches has been a three-setter until her semi-final against Timea Bacsinszky.
Bacsinszky had mounted some memorable comebacks, over Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep, causing them both to unravel quite spectacularly on her way into the semi-final, but maybe the nerves was getting to the Swiss as she tended to just push a little too hard, it was the tour veteran who battled through in some oppressive heat.
She said to WTATennis.com: “I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down. I have not been feeling my best but I have been fighting every ball and just trying to run as much as I could.
“I enjoyed the fight and I’m happy I’m still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest.”
Azarenka got some measure of revenge over Angelique Kerber in the semi-final, after losing to her for the first time in the Australian Open semi-final. Having beaten her in the season opener in Brisbane, it was a tough loss for the two-time Slam champion, but she struck ahead for a lead in the first set, but Kerber was enjoying her own purple patch this tournament, finally getting some back to back wins since winning the Australian Open.
She lifted her level in the second set, before Azarenka edged ahead, but three double-faults while serving for the set almost let the German back in before the Belarusian closed out a 6-2 7-5 win.
As reported in WTATennis.com, Azarenka said of the final: We haven’t played each other in a while but I think we know each other pretty well. The last time we played we were both in different stages of our career so it’s interesting to see us coming back and playing such a high level of tennis. It’s gonna be tough but I’m very looking forward to this challenge.”
The pair have split their head to head over the years, and we can expect a tough battle once more.
Prediction: Azarenka in three sets
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