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Rybakina survives Azarenka test for Collins final

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MIAMI: Fourth seed Elena Rybakina overcame a second-set meltdown to beat Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(2) on Thursday and secure a return trip to the Miami Open final. In Saturday's title clash, Rybakina will face off against American Danielle Collins, who beat Russian 14th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-2 in the other semifinal.


Rybakina, the highest seed remaining in the women's draw, won nearly 82 per cent of her first-serve points but converted only two of her 11 break-point chances en route to securing victory in two hours 33 minutes.


"It was such a tough battle," Rybakina, a Moscow-born Kazakh, said during her on-court interview after reaching her fourth final of the year. "I didn't serve that well and also Vika, from the second set, she was hitting the serve very well. It was difficult but I knew was going to fight until the end and actually that's what I did." In the opening set, Rybakina squandered her first five break-point chances before solving Azarenka's serve to grab a 4-3 lead and she leaned on her astonishing power before closing out the 51-minute set with a hold to love.



Azarenka refused to go quietly, however, conjuring up a flawless display in the second set in which she limited Rybakina to five points and broke her serve three times to force a decider. Rybakina, after a change of outfits, opened the third set moving much better and broke at the fifth attempt in the fifth game to move 3-2 up when Azarenka splashed a backhand into the net.


Rybakina crumbled in her first chance to serve out the match, however, as Azarenka got a break to get to 5-5 after she chased down a drop shot before her opponent sent a backhand volley into the net. Rybakina, serving to stay in the match, held to love to force a tiebreak and she won the first three points of it before closing out the win.


The 24-year-old, who is seeking her third title this year after wins in Brisbane and Abu Dhabi, will fancy her chances against Collins in the final, having beaten the American in their last three meetings. Collins marched into her maiden final in Miami with a clinical display against Alexandrova, firing off 21 winners to wrap up the match in just over an hour.


"It's special to do this in my home state," said Collins, who will now bid for the third WTA title of her career ahead of her retirement at the end of the season. "I've had a lot of tough battles with Rybakina, but I did get a win on her in San Jose a while ago. I'll have to do my homework on her."



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