By Tucker Verdi
Sloane Stephens is through to her first premier mandatory semifinal in Miami. Or is it her first?
“No, I did this before, didn’t I?” the reigning US Open champ expressed to the reporter who asked what the first-time experience was like. “At Indian Wells, didn’t I play, like, [Flavia] Pannetta in the semis?”
The match she was referring to was actually a quarterfinal against the fellow US Open champion Pannetta in 2013, which she lost in three tight sets. Her quarterfinal matchup today – former World No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber – was not as close.
Stephens won 6-1, 6-2 in one hour, only facing a single break point along the way, which she saved.
The 25-year-old will face three-time champ in Key Biscayne Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals on Thursday.
Twice an Australian Open winner, Azarenka outplayed fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in a close two-setter for a 7-5, 6-3 win. The former World No. 1 is the first wildcard to advance to the Miami Open semifinals since Justine Henin in 2010.
The two players have met four times on tour, with Azarenka winning their three consecutive matchups in Melbourne at the Australian Open from 2013 to 2015. Stephens finally notched a win just this month in the second round at Indian Wells.
“I played Sloane in Indian Wells,” Azarenka noted after her match, “and I think it’s going to be a little bit of a different story here, I hope, because I didn’t play well there.”
With both playing at the top of their games right now, the match will most assuredly be a hard-fought one.
“I mean, once you get to a semifinal or quarterfinal, you’re playing someone who is playing good tennis,” Stephens answered in response to a question about her next opponent, who had yet to be determined at that point. Stephens knows Azarenka will be a challenge, just as Kerber was in the quarters, despite the scoreline.
“I mean, the score – maybe the first set, but the second set, I thought we played a pretty tough second set,” Stephens explained, adding, “I don’t think the score was reflective of some of the good points that we played.
“But the score is the score.”
For full results of the day, visit miamiopen.com/2018-results.
About the Miami Open presented by Itaú
The 2018 Miami Open will be played March 19-April 1 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami. The two-week combined event is owned and operated by IMG. The Miami Open is one of nine ATP Masters 1000 Series events on the ATP calendar, a Premier Mandatory event on the WTA calendar, and features the top men's and women's tennis players in the world. The tournament is widely regarded as the most glamorous on the ATP and WTA calendars because of its exotic Miami location, thriving nightlife, five-star hotels and restaurants, beautiful weather and beaches, and its celebrity appeal. For ticket information, call +1.305.442.3367 or visit www.miamiopen.com.
Itau is the largest Latin America privately owned bank, with approximately 94,000 employees and operations in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. Itaú’s relationship with sport goes back to the 1970s, when Itaú first sponsored the Itaú Tennis Cup in Brazil in 1970. Itaú has been a sponsor of the Miami Open for the last six years, and also sponsors the Rio Open, the only combined ATP/WTA event in South America. Itaú also supports the Brazilian Women’s Tennis Circuit, only female professional tournament in South America, certified by the Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBT) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), as well as the Tennis Institute Training Center, responsible for the development of young, new talent.
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions.