Azarenka rolls into Australian Open semifinals

ROBERT GRANT
Last updated 16:13 23/01/2013
Victoria Azarenka
Getty Images
FINAL FOUR: A screaming Victoria Azarenka marched into the Australian Open semifinals, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets.

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Defending champion Victoria Azarenka has beaten Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova to move into the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

After a tough opening set, the Belarusian cruised through the second to wrap up a 7-5 6-1 win in one hour 47 minutes.

She will now face the winner of the quarter-final between Americans Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens.

Azarenka said she was prepared for Kuznetsova's tricky game.

"She played really well throughout the whole match," she said.

"I know what she is capable of so I was prepared.

"She plays a little bit differently so I was happy I could adapt and find my best tennis when it was necessary."

Azarenka said she maintained the passion for the game that she had when she first picked up a racquet as a youngster.

"I always had that fire, I would never leave the court until 10pm," she said.

"I wish every kid was like that."

Kuznetsova grabbed the first service break to lead 3-1 in the opening set as Azarenka's return bounced wide of the line.

But the Belarusian was handed it back in the seventh game when Kuznetsova double-faulted.

She again broke to lead 6-5 with a cross court return and went on to take the set in 77 minutes.

With a break of serve in the fifth game following a another crucial double fault from Kuznetsova, Azarenka took a 5-1 lead then broke again for the match.

The pair had met seven times previously and while Kuznetsova held a 4-3 record, she dominated their early encounters.

But Azarenka has held the upper hand in recent matches, beating the Russian twice last year, at Indian Wells and in Madrid.

Kuznetsova was sidelined for much of 2012 with a knee injury and was on crutches for two months.

However the 27-year-old, who admitted she was jaded last year, made a determined bid to return refreshed for 2013.

A winner of the US and French Opens, she came into the Australian Open after reaching the quarter-finals in Sydney as a qualifier.

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- AAP

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