KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.—“I never doubted my abilities,” Victoria Azarenka said after running roughshod over Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2, in just 77 minutes in the Miami Open final on Sunday.
Judging by where her 2016 stands right now, it’s easy to see why Azarenka always believed, even as the injuries and painful defeats mounted over the last two years.
With this title, Azarenka became the first woman since Kim Clijsters in 2005 to win Indian Wells and Key Biscayne back to back. She improved her season record to 23-1. She propelled herself back into the Top 5 for the first time since 2014 (that’s already 17 spots higher than where she was on January 1 of this year). Over the last two weeks, Azarenka has knocked off three of the world’s best—Serena Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber—in straight sets. Against Kuznetsova, she didn’t even have to play especially well, or appear especially confident, for the first set-and-a-half to end up winning easily.
“I don’t think we played a great game, both of us,” Kuznetsova admitted afterward.
Few would disagree, especially about the opening set. Each player struggled to put a serve in the court or generate any electricity from the baseline. It was a hot day at the end of a hot week, and both women, as Kuznetsova said, looked a a bit “worked out.” As bad as Azarenka was on her serve to start, Kuznetsova was worse. She failed to hold at all in the first set, and was broken seven times in total.