Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka maintained her
surge in form while the leading women on the tour are struggling with injuries
or inconsistency at the start of the season, reaching the Brisbane
International semi-finals with a 6-1, 6-2 win over eighth-seeded Roberta Vinci.
The two-time Australian Open champion has
dropped just 10 games en route to the semis, where she'll meet Samantha
Crawford, the No 142-ranked, 20-year-old US qualifier who beat Andrea
Pektovic 6-3, 6-0 earlier on Thursday.
Azarenka, who was limited to 23 tournaments
across the last two seasons due to foot and leg injuries, was broken once in
each set but converted 7 of her 11 breakpoint chances against Vinci, who ended
Serena Williams' bid for a season Grand Slam with an upset semi-final win at
the US Open last year.
"I really had to take control in my
own hands, because she comes up with some really difficult situations and
combinations which keep you on your toes," said Azarenka, who added that
while she didn't know a lot about Crawford, "Obviously nobody is getting
into semi-finals by not playing well."
Fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber, the
highest-ranked woman remaining in the Brisbane tournament, advanced to the semi-finals
with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and will next play No.
6-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, who held off Varvara Lepchenko 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
On the men's side, Milos Raonic opened his
2016 season with a 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-4 win over Croatia's Ivan Dodig and moved
into a quarter-final match against Lucas Pouille, who had an upset 7-6 (5), 4-6,
6-3 win over sixth-seeded David Goffin.
Grigor Dimitrov advanced with a 5-7, 7-6
(6), 6-2 win over Viktor Troicki and will face the winner of the night match
between defending champion Roger Federer and German qualifier Tobias Kamke.
At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New
Zealand, third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki moved into the semi-finals with a 6-1,
6-0 win over Alexandra Dalgheru.
"I really hit it well, I went for my
shots," said Wozniacki, who made only eight unforced errors. "I came
to the net - I didn't even know I could volley like that, so I was pleasantly
Wozniacki has a 5-0 record against her semi-final
opponent, Sloane Stephens. The fifth-seeded American had a 7-6 (6), 6-3 win
over qualifier Naomi Broady of Britain.
Earlier, Tamira Paszek beat fellow
qualifier Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3 in a match that lasted almost
Paszek's semi-final opponent will be Julia
Goerges, who beat Nao Hibino of Japan 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-4.
At the Hopman Cup in Perth, Ukraine
qualified for Saturday's final with singles wins over the Australia Gold team
of Jarmila Wolfe and Lleyton Hewitt.
Wolfe lost her singles to Elina Svitolina
6-3, 6-3 and former No 1-ranked Hewitt,
who will retire after the Australian Open in two weeks, fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to
Alexandr Dogopolov to give Ukraine an insurmountable 2-0 lead. Australia won
the mixed doubles 3-6, 7-5, 10-5.
In a night match, Jack Sock and Vicky Duval
were to play for the United States against the Czech Republic in a matchup
between teams already eliminated.
Duval replaced Serena Williams, who has
inflammation in her left knee and wants to rest ahead of the Australian Open
beginning in 11 days.