Collins dominates to set up Miami final with Rybakina

In Sports
March 29, 2024



MIAMI:

Danielle Collins, in her final year on the WTA Tour before retirement, booked her first ever 1000 series final in Miami on Thursday with a dominant 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The 30-year-old Collins, will face fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final. The Kazakhstan player was pushed all the way by veteran Victoria Azarenka before coming out with a 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (7/2) victory.

Collins denied this week that her great run to the last four was a result of her playing with freedom after announcing her intention to retire at the end of this year.

But once again the American looked relaxed and in control as she took full charge of the contest against Russia’s Alexandrova, who had beaten world number one Iga Swiatek in the fourth round before downing fifth-seed Jessica Pegula of the United States.

“It’s even more special coming in my home state,” said Collins, who hails from St. Petersburg near Tampa.

“I’ve had a couple of good years here, but this is definitely the most memorable,” she added.

Alexandrova broke early in the first set but Collins swiftly got the contest back on serve before breaking again to go 4-2 up and take the set.

The American then broke on Alexandrova’s first service game in the second and ran away with the set to complete a 74 minute victory.

“I’ve followed all of her matches this tournament, it was fun watching her because we have a very similar game style. It is tricky when it is like that,” said Collins.

“That forced me to concentrate harder, react faster and really forced me to play up at my highest level,” she said.

The 24-year-old Rybakina returns to the Miami final for the second straight year after losing to Czech Petra Kvitova in 2023.

Her form — and the absence of any of the top three in the world — suggests she will be the strong favorite against Collins.

So far this year Rybakina has won titles in Brisbane, Abu Dhabi and her first WTA 1000 final of the year in Doha.

Her serve looked too much for Azarenka in the first set but then faded badly in the second before breaking to go 3-2 up in the third.

But the 34-year-old Azarenka, a three-time winner at Miami, showed all her dogged spirit as she broke back to make it 5-5 and keep alive her hopes of an unlikely run to the final.

But in the tie-break, Rybakina found her serve in spectacular fashion, leaving Azarenka helpless with a fearsome ace to go 3-0 up.

The outcome never looked in doubt from that point on but 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who withdrew from her Indian Wells title defense this month because of illness, said she had been in trouble physically in the second set.

“There was a pause where I stayed on the court and I think I should have maybe left (for) a bit because it was really humid and tough conditions, the energy just went down and Vika came back very aggressively.

“After three games when I lost so easily it was very difficult to regroup so I knew there would be a third set and I was just trying to prepare for it,” she added.

Rybakina said she was able to get in the zone for the tie-break.

“I switched off the mind a bit for the tie-break and I just went for it,” she said.

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