POST TIME: 2 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM
Azarenka, Kuznetsova advance to Miami final
Nishikori faces Kyrgios in menís semis

Azarenka, Kuznetsova advance to Miami final

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns a shot to Angelique Kerber of Germany during the semifinals of the Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Centre in Key Biscayne, Florida on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

AFP, MIAMI: Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus advanced to the final of the ATP and WTA Miami Open on Thursday with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber of Germany. Azarenka will face Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in Saturday's championship match. While 30-year old Russian Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion, beat Swiss 19th seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3.
“It's a final so anything can happen. It's a match where you give it all,” Azarenka said. “She is such a talented player. It's going to be a challenge but I'm ready for it.”
Kuznetsova and Azarenka have split eight career meetings, but Azarenka has won the past three without dropping a set, most recently in the 2013 Australian Open semis.
“Vika, she is doing amazing,” Kuznetsova said. "She is extremely prepared, playing really confident, taking all her chances."
Azarenka, ranked eighth, improved to 7-1 against Kerber, the only loss coming in this year's Australian Open quarter-finals, by breaking the second seed three times in the first set and four in the second.
“I kept pounding and trying to break her rhythm," Azarenka said. "I'm glad I stayed really strong.”
Azarenka, the 2009 and 2011 Miami champion, will crack the world top five for the first time since May 2014 and could become only the third woman to win Miami and Indian Wells back-to-back after Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996 and Kim Clijsters in 2005.
Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami winner, ousted top-ranked Serena Williams in the fourth round while Azarenka downed Williams in the Indian Wells final.
Kuznetsova, at 19th, is the lowest-ranked Miami finalist since 2005, but she would jump into the world top 10 for the first time since May 2010 by taking the title.
Japan's Kei Nishikori saved five match points to down Gael Monfils on Thursday and advance into a semi-final showdown with Australian Nick Kyrgios at the ATP and WTA Miami Open.
Nishikori denied Monfils four times in the 10th game of the final set and again in the 12th before taking the last three tie-breaker points to end a tension-packed thriller after two hours and 29 minutes.
“I thought, 'That's it. It's going to be tough to come back,” Nishikori said. “But I tried to play one good point at a time. I had to focus to come back and I did it.”
Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, will play Friday for a berth in Sunday's final against 24th seed Kyrgios, who ousted Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
“I have to return well whenever possible to get on his serve,” Nishikori said. “That's going to be the key for sure.”
Kyrgios, at 20, will become the youngest player in the world top 20 since 2009 on Monday.
“It's pretty cool. I'm happy with that," Kyrgios said. "But there's 19 guys in front of me."
Coming off his first ATP title in February at Marseille, Kyrgios is into his first ATP Masters Series semi-final but must face a veteran in Nishikori, who won their only prior meeting last year in Shanghai.