Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Top-ranked Azarenka battles to advance to quarter-finals; Kerber fights through

AP, BRISBANE, Australia

Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka opened her season this year with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki yesterday to join No. 3 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the Brisbane International quarter-finals.

Azarenka got the better of 37th-ranked Lisicki in a match containing nine breaks of serve.

The Belarusian won her first major at the Australian Open last year during a 26-match winning streak to start the season and spent most of last year atop the women’s rankings.

In earlier second-round matches, Angelique Kerber recovered from 5-2 down in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 and Sloane Stephens had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson to set up a quarter-final against fellow American Williams.

Azarenka said Lisicki, who was serving at up to 194kph, proved a tough match and a good measure of her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14.

She said Lisicki was “serving some bombs,” although the German player was only getting half of her first serves into play and had five double faults.

Lisicki mixed 36 winners with 36 unforced errors, trying to push Azarenka around the court.

Azarenka is next scheduled to play Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak, who has ousted former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Urszula Radwanska in matches decided by third-set tiebreakers.

Five of the top eight seeded players had already been eliminated midway through the second round.

Kerber narrowly avoided that fate, coming back from 4-1 down in the third set and clawing her way back in a tiebreaker when Puig was two points from the biggest victory of her life.

The 19-year-old Puig, ranked No. 124, buried a swinging volley into the bottom of the net at 5-2 in the tiebreaker and it changed the momentum of the match.

Stephens had a convincing win over Arvidsson and next faces Serena Williams, a childhood hero.

In men’s second-round matches, third-seeded Gilles Simon of France beat Colombia’s Alejandro Falla 7-6, 7-6 and No. 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan had a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tommy Robredo of Spain. Sixth-seeded Florian Mayer lost 6-4, 6-2 to 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

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