MOSCOW, January 3 (R-Sport) - World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka is to play No. 3 Serena Williams in the first top-ten clash of the new WTA season after the American reached the semifinals of the Brisbane International on Thursday.
Williams faced stiff resistance from young Floridian Sloane Stephens on her way to a 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win, after Azarenka earlier crushed qualifier Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-0.
Stephens put her more illustrious opponent under pressure in the first set, but faltered at the key moments, most notably a break point while leading 4-3 that Williams saved before closing out the set with crashing, laser-accurate forehands.
Williams, who has yet to drop a set in three matches, enjoyed an even duel with Stephens early in the second before pulling away at 3-3 to take the win.
Azarenka, the 2009 Brisbane champion, has won just one of her 12 meetings with Williams, that coming in 2009 in Miami.
The other semifinal pits Russia’s world No. 36 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, a lucky loser from qualifying who only entered the main draw as a late replacement for the injured Maria Sharapova.
The Brisbane International is a $1 million Premier hard-court tournament that is the highest-paying women’s event before the Australian Open later this month.
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