No. 1-Ranked Azarenka into Brisbane Semifinals
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka wasted no time in a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak on Thursday, setting up a possible semifinal showdown with Serena Williams at the Brisbane International.
Azarenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, needed only 68 minutes to win her quarterfinal, breaking Pervak's serve seven times.
Pervak had opened the tournament with an upset win over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, but didn't have anything left to trouble Azarenka after coming off back-to-back matches decided in third-set tiebreakers.
No. 3-ranked Williams was playing fellow American Sloane Stephens in a night quarterfinal.
Williams has won 33 of her last 34 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics and U.S. Open. She has an 11-1 record against Azarenka, including five wins in all of the matches they played in 2012.
"Well, it's a tough match, there is no question about it," Azarenka said of the prospect of another chance against Williams, a 15-time major winner. "I'm looking forward to it. There is one more chance for us to meet, and it's going to be a great test for the Australian Open."
Azarenka and Williams were the only two seeded players still in contention after No. 36-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia beat No. 4 Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), her second win over a Top 10 player this week after beating 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the first round.
Pavlyuchenkova has spent a bit of time with Williams at the Patrick Mouratoglou tennis academy in France, where she has been honing her game with five-time major winner Martina Hingis.
The 21-year-old Russian has even been singing karaoke with the two former No. 1-ranked players.
"I haven't had a chance to hit with (Serena), but I had a chance to sing with her," she said. "Yeah, she loves karaoke and I love karaoke. But they're much older with Martina so they sing songs of '90s that I don't really know that well."
Pavlyuchenkova, a semifinalist here in 2011, will next play Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko, the lucky loser from qualifying who got into the main draw when No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova withdrew due to a sore right collarbone.
Tsurenko followed up her second-round win over Australia's Jarmila Gajdosova with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova.
"I'm the first time in my life lucky loser, and it's really surprising for me to take the spot of Maria Sharapova," Tsurenko said. "I'm just enjoying now. That's my chance. I'm just taking it. "
In the men's second round, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria upset No. 2-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3, 6-4 and Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan had a 7-5, 7-5 win over former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
Defending champion Andy Murray, the Olympic and U.S. Open champion, was playing Australian qualifier John Millman in a night match.