Copy of 827977-01-02-1711539147882
Victoria Azarenka returns a shot to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan during her women's singles match during the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

Miami: Three-time Miami Open winner Victoria Azarenka battled for nearly three hours to get past a determined Yulia Putintseva and take her place in the semi-finals with a 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 6-3 win on Tuesday.

Fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina, the highest seeded player left in the tournament, held off a strong challenge from eighth-seed Maria Sakkari of Greece before emerging with a 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 win.

The 34-year-old Azarenka, who won in Miami in 2009, 2011 and 2016, had to deal not only with the spirited display from the Moscow-born Kazakh player, but also a long disruption to the match due to a technical problem.

The match was stopped for 45 minutes in the fourth game of the first set due to a power outage which impacted the umpire’s communications and the hawkeye system.

Azarenka had to save three set points on Putintseva’s serve at 5-4 in the first set, then missed out on two set points of her own at 6-5 before the tie-break.

Putintseva dominated the second set but Azarenka found the strength to get ahead in the third but still her opponent refused to relent, fighting off match point before breaking.

But Azarenka held on her next serve to secure passage to the last four and keep alive her hope of a fourth Miami title.

“Yulia played great, she’s in such great form and I really had to dig deep. I felt like my legs were kind of giving in a little bit and I lost a little bit of self-belief because she was playing so well and moving me around everywhere,” said Azarenka.

“But I’m happy that I was able to regroup, reset and really take my chances, come out and play aggressive and face the challenge,” she said.

Azarenka said the win showed that there can be no doubt about her desire to compete at the highest level.

“I’m motivated to compete and go after my dreams. I’ve been playing on tour for 20 years and I still feel like I am improving, that’s priceless for me and I want to keep going,” she added.

Belarusian Azarenka will face Rybakina for a place in the final.

Rybakina, at 24, is the youngest player left in the tournament and she needed all her energy to survive a 2hr 48min tussle with Sakkari.

Rybakina led 6-5 in the first set and the match looked poised for a tie-break but Sakkari’s service game deserted her at the crucial moment and she was broken with a fine down the line winner from the Kazakh, last year’s beaten finalist in Miami.

Sakkari opened up a 4-2 lead in an error-strewn second set but allowed Rybakina to win the next three games and had to save two match points.

The Greek ran out the winner in the tie-break but Rybakina, who looked to have an ankle problem, was able to finally break at 3-3 converting on her third break point.

Sakkari’s determination saw her save four match points when 5-3 down as she held but this time Rybakina was able to close out the contest on her serve.

“It was such a tough battle, as it has been before. I am really happy but now I just need to recover,” said Rybakina.

Copy of 2024-03-27T001122Z_1957084837_MT1USATODAY22874222_RTRMADP_3_TENNIS-MIAMI-OPEN-1711539145947
Carlos Alcaraz reaches for a forehand against Lorenzo Musetti on day nine of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. Image Credit: Reuters

Alcaraz and Sinner through

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz marched into the quarter-finals on Tuesday with convincing victory over Italian Lorenzo Musetti with a 6-3, 6-3 win in 85 minutes.

Second seed Jannik Sinner of Italy also moved into the last eight beating Christopher O’Connell of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

Alcaraz, who is searching for the ‘Sunshine Double’ after winning in Indian Wells, was too much for 23rd seed Musetti although the Italian certainly contributed to a crowd-pleasing contest.

Stadium court erupted after a rally in the third game of the second set saw Musetti clip the ball between his legs, lobbing Alcaraz but the Spaniard returned it with a ‘tweener’ only to lose the point to a deft volley at the net.

But overall it was a comfortable match for Alcaraz whose all-round game looks in strong shape.

“I tried to play my game, to play aggressive shots, go to the net, drop shots, my style in general and I think I did pretty well and I am happy with the performance,” said the Spaniard, who was enthusiastic about his form.

“I don’t know if this is the best game I’ve played but without a doubt it is the best feeling. I feel great on the court, I’m moving great, I am not injured and not thinking about my ankle’s the best feeling since the summer,” he added.

In the quarters, Alcaraz will face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Pole Hubert Hurkacz, triumphing in a third set tie-break for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) win.

Sinner trailed 3-1 in the first set, as the Australian cleverly mixed up his approach, asking a variety of questions of his Italian opponent.

He faced a potential double break at 0-30 but responded strongly to come back and take the set after 58 minutes.

The second set was more straightforward for Sinner who broke O’Connell’s first service game and then took care of business to wrap up the win.

“He started off really well, I made a couple of mistakes. When you are a break down especially in the beginning, it’s always tough, also mentally,” said Sinner.

Sinner will face Czech Tomas Machac who eased into the quarters with a 6-3, 6-3 win over another Italian, Matteo Arnaldi.