Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stephens routs Kerber in Miami quarterfinals

   Sloane Stephens dominated a two-time Grand Slam champion for the second straight day.
   But this time, there was a catch.
   The 13th-seeded Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, dispatched 10th-seeded Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 today in 61 minutes in the Miami Open quarterfinals.
   Kerber, who won the Australian Open and U.S. Open champion and reached No. 1 in 2016, had less than 24 hours to recover from her two-hour, 51-minute victory over qualifier Wang Yafan of China.
   "I was really feeling a little bit tired today," Kerber, who has reached the quarterfinals or better in all six of her tournaments this year, admitted on wtatennis.com. "I mean, of course it was windy, it was tricky, but I have played so many matches in the last three months that I was feeling it a little bit today in my body. ... I was always one step too far away from balls, and then I make the mistakes."
   Meanwhile, the 12th-ranked Stephens reached her first semifinal since winning the U.S. Open last September for her first Grand Slam title. The 25-year-old resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will crack the top 10 for the first time on Monday.
   "Finally. Oh my God," Stephens, who climbed to a career-high No. 11 in October 2013, said with a laugh. "I'm so tired of (tournament emcees) being like, "Career-high ranking, No. 11.' Like, finally I can move in there.
   "It's awesome. Obviously something I have wanted to do for a while, and ... it's really not easy. Getting to No. 11 was hard, and so getting into the top 10 is pretty special. I'm super excited about that."
   Only one month ago, Stephens trudged to Acapulco with eight consecutive losses since her stunning run to the U.S. Open title. She proceeded to reach the Acapulco quarters and then the third round at Indian Wells, losing to eventual runner-up Daria Kasatkina.
   In the fourth round at Miami, Stephens beat third-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-4 in one hour, 28 minutes on Monday. Over the past 12 months, Stephens has gone 22-5 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and 0-9 elsewhere.
   Stephens will meet another two-time Grand Slam champion, wild card Victoria Azarenka, in Thursday's semifinals. Azarenka -- who won the Miami in 2009, 2011 and 2016 -- beat fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3.
   Azarenka, formerly ranked No. 1, is playing in only her second tournament since Wimbledon last July because of a custody battle over her 1-year-old son, Leo.
   The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Azarenka, who's five inches (12.7 centimeters) taller than Stephens, leads their head-to-head series 3-1. But Stephens won the last meeting 6-1, 7-5 in the second round at Indian Wells this month. Each of Azarenka's victories has come in straight sets in the Australian Open.
    The other women's semifinal matchup will be determined Wednesday. No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is scheduled to face No. 6 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia at 10 a.m. PDT, and No. 8 Venus Williams of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will meet qualifier Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla., at 4 p.m. ESPN2 will televise both matches.
   Williams won the Miami title in 1998, 1999 and 2001.
   Men's Futures -- Four Europeans who starred at Northern California universities met in the doubles final of the $25,000 USTA Men 's Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas in the Los Angeles area on Sunday.
   Unseeded former Cal teammates Andre Goransson of Sweden and Florian Lakat of France topped second-seeded Bernardo Saraiva (University of San Francisco) of Portugal and Sem Verbeek (Pacific) of the Netherlands 6-2, 7-6 (3).
   The singles final featured an all-Los Angeles area matchup. No. 7 seed J.C. Aragone of Yorba Linda beat No. 4 seed and 2014 champion Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks 6-2, 6-4.

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