Azarenka eases into last-eight


Victoria Azarenka enjoyed an easier outing at the Australian Open on Monday, cruising into the quarter-finals with a routine win over Elena Vesnina.
Defending champion Azarenka was pushed all the way by Jamie Hampton in the previous round on Saturday with the American threatening a major upset until her chances were undone by a back injury.
There was no such drama on Rod Laver Arena on Monday with Vesnina never looking as though she could unsettle the top seed.
The world number 47 was overpowered and out-thought by Azarenka, who won 6-1 6-1 to advance to a last-eight meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The Hampton match aside it has been plain sailing for all the top seeds in Melbourne and this was another contest which did little to enhance the reputation of the women’s game.
Azarenka ran through the opening set with three breaks, and although Vesnina claimed the Azarenka serve at the start of the second she could not win another game as the Belarusian eased through in just 57 minutes.
“I think it’s getting there,” she said when asked to assess her game.
“With every match you build up, the top battles are starting now and it’s exciting to be this far in the tournament.”
A clash with resurgent two-time grand slam champion Kuznetsova promises to be much tougher.
The Russian on Monday came through a tricky three-setter with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 2-6 7-5.
“I’m happy with the result but still disappointed with the second set,” said Kuznetsova, who is enjoying a return to full fitness after a disjointed end to 2012.
“I had knee problems so I had to spend two months on crutches. I had a good pre-season and I am fresh and it is showing on the court.
“I’m happy to be in the quarters.”
American Sloane Stephens continued her impressive run in Melbourne by reaching her first grand slam quarter-final with a 6-1 3-6 7-5 defeat of Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski.
The 19-year-old will meet the winner of Monday night’s clash between title favourite Serena Williams and Maria Kirilenko.

Hot-serving Serena bludgeons past Kirilenko

Serena Williams was at her enigmatic best on Monday after she bludgeoned her way into the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-0 win over Maria Kirilenko.
The 31-year-old American wasted little effort in demolishing the 14th seed in 57 minutes to set up a showdown with young compatriot Sloane Stephens, yet as far as Williams was concerned she struggled against the Russian.
“I was surprised. I felt like Maria played really well,” Williams told reporters. “I was just trying to play well, just to keep up.”
Kirilenko tried to execute a high-risk game plan against Williams, but the third seed simply swatted her aside with contemptuous ease. She served six aces to Kirilenko’s one and her top speed for serve was 201kph. Kirilenko’s was 170kph, three kph below Williams’s average.
Williams’s first serve completion was 87 percent and her second serve was just as potent with Kirilenko adding she thought she had made only one successful return.
Williams also gave up just three break-point opportunities, none of which the Russian converted. Williams converted five from seven. The American also hammered 22 winners and forced Kirilenko into 15 errors.
That dominance has continued a trend Williams began after twisting her ankle in her first-round clash against Romania’s Edina Gallovits-Hall.
Last year at Melbourne Park, Williams entered the tournament with a badly injured ankle that she said contributed to her fourth round exit to Ekaterina Makarova.
This year, she is not taking any chances, blasting away at every opportunity. So far Williams has dropped just eight games and spent a total of four hours, 12 minutes on court although almost 10 of those were while getting treatment for her ankle injury against Gallovits-Hall. Kirilenko simply shrugged her shoulders in her media conference after the match. “I played like I want to play something unbelievable, every shot I want to do the good shot but sometimes you just have to play simple, maybe just through the middle,” Kirilenko said.
“But when I played through the middle, then she started to make winners. Maybe I was trying too much. “We didn’t even have long points. It was really difficult to get the rhythm. It wasn’t my day.”

Tsonga wins battle of the Frenchmen

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after beating compatriot Richard Gasquet in four sets on Monday. Gasquet hit back from losing the opening set but was powerless to prevent Tsonga from running away with it by breaking early in the third and fourth. After completing a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2 win, the seventh seed said: “I am just very happy to go through. “Richard is a very good friend and I have known him since I was 10. It’s never easy to play against a friend.” Tsonga will meet the winner of the later clash between Roger Federer and Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals.