Rybakina survives Sakkari battle to reach Miami Open semis

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Agency :
Elena Rybakina usually keeps a calm demeanour both in victory and defeat but on March 26, she had “no words” simply because she was too fatigued.

The Kazakh star survived a gruelling Miami Open quarter-final against Maria Sakkari as she advanced to the last four for a second straight year with a 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 victory.

Rybakina, who will meet Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final, needed nearly three hours to beat Sakkari.

The Greek ultimately succumbed to the fourth seed’s overwhelming serve in the 10th game of the third set.

“I have no words because I’m so tired,” the 24-year-old Rybakina said.

“But I’m really happy with the win. I got a little bit lucky with new balls, so it was easier to serve it out… now I just need to recover.”

Rybakina won the first set despite losing a 4-2 lead, but the second was much tougher as she failed to convert two match points in the 10th game.

That allowed Sakkari to fight back to force the third deciding set, in which the Kazakh then refocused to win 6-4.

“It was really tough,” Rybakina added.

“I had two match points and couldn’t close it out but I was just thinking to keep on fighting for every point. I knew the third (set) would be really tough.”

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Rybakina, the world No. 4 and 2022 Wimbledon champion, will need to bring her best again when she takes on three-time tournament champion and former world No. 1 Azarenka.

The veteran Belarusian player contended with a near hour-long stoppage in the first set because of a power outage to the electronic line-calling system, before beating Kazakh Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-3 earlier in the day.

She saved three set points en route to clinching the first-set tiebreak in the 90-minute opener before her unseeded opponent raised her game in the second to force a decider.

Azarenka proved too solid down the stretch, firing an unreturnable serve on match point.

“Very happy with today’s win,” the 34-year-old said.

“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.

“But I’m happy that I was able to regroup… come out and play aggressive and face the challenge.

“It’s good to be back in the later stages of the tournament, it’s what I work for.”

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