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Defending champion Azarenka into Open quarters


Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka hits a return against Russia’s Elena Vesnina during their women’s singles match on day eight of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2013. AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA

MELBOURNE – Defending champion Victoria Azarenka breezed into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Monday with an easy straight-sets defeat of unseeded Russian Elena Vesnina.

The top-seeded Belarusian prevailed 6-1, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena and will meet another Russian, two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, for a place in the last four.

The world number one, who was pushed to three sets in a tough third round clash with American Jamie Hampton, was in red-hot form off the baseline, but seven double-faults blotted her performance.

“The top battles are starting now,” she said, looking ahead to her next match. “I’m really excited to be so far in the tournament again.”

Vesnina, who won the Hobart International warm-up tournament, has never beaten a world number one and she did not look like improving her record on Monday.

Azarenka immediately broke the 47th-ranked Russian in her opening service game to pile the early pressure on.

The Belarusian comfortably held before breaking Vesnina to love for a 3-0 lead with the Russian overawed and not getting in the game, having no answers to the sizzling Azarenka forehand.

She finally held serve to get a game on the board before the top seed wrapped up the set in 33 minutes.

While Azarenka’s groundstrokes were near faultless, her serve was wayward and this gave Vesnina a glimmer of hope, but she failed to capitalise and Azarenka broke for a 3-1 lead.

There was no stopping Azarenka, who needs to defend her title to have any chance of remaining world number one with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova breathing down her neck, as she raced to victory in less than an hour.


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