Azarenka wins; Stephens vs Williams in Brisbane
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka opened her 2013 season with a 6-3, 6-3 win Wednesday over Sabine Lisicki to join No. 3 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the Brisbane International quarterfinals.
American Sloane Stephens had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson to set up a quarterfinal against Williams. She'll face a childhood hero.
"Obviously, she's been a really great influence in my tennis," the 19-year-old Stephens said. "I'm excited to play her and get on the court with her. I think it'll be fun."
Williams said she has been following Stephens' career and was "a fan" of her young Fed Cup teammate's style.
In her first tournament back since being sidelined by an abdominal injury following the U.S. Open, Stephens isn't awed by the prospect of taking on the 15-time Grand Slam winner.
"Obviously, I always was like, 'Oh, my God. I love her to death. She's amazing, whatever,'" Stephens recalled of early meetings with Williams. "Now she's like an actual person and I'm like, 'Oh, hi. How is it going?' She's not like a hero anymore. She's just a friend.
"Even if I go out there and lose, just bomb it, I don't win a game, at least if I'm able to focus on myself and do what's right for me, then it's not a loss."
Kerber recovered from 5-2 down in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7).
Azarenka won her first major at the Australian Open last year during a 26-match winning streak to start the season and spent most of 2012 atop the women's rankings.
She said her focus ahead of her first major title defense was more about attacking than defending.
"I actually don't really look at defending anything. I'm just looking to win," Azarenka said. "I'm going to have the same mindset for as long as I'm playing."
The Belarusian, who won here in 2009 without dropping a set, got the better of 37th-ranked Lisicki in a match that had nine breaks of serve. Azarenka said Lisicki, who was serving at up to 121 mph, proved a tough match and a good measure of her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14.
Sports Photo Galleriesview all
- 24265Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 15789Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms drink in success of 'Hangover' series
- 10553Oklahoma tornadoes: Woman meets the military officer who shared the clothes off his back
- 9606Oklahoma tornadoes: Thunder reverses the role, takes a turn at cheering on the community
- 9126Hobby Lobby argues case before federal judges
- 8599Story behind the photo: Family members describe desperate search for one another after EF5 twister
- 8494Blake Shelton's "Healing the Heartland" televised tornado benefit set for Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena