Serena rolls; Azarenka bounces back to start second week Down Under

9:43 AM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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Melbourne, Australia (Sports Network) - Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka were dominant winners Monday as the fourth round of the Australian Open came to a close.

Williams made short work of Russian Maria Kirilenko in a 6-2, 6-0 rout to start the night session at Rod Laver Arena, while Azarenka bounced back from a tough third-round match and cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Elena Vesnina.

The third-seeded former world No. 1 Williams has dropped just eight games in her first four matches. She needed just 57 minutes to dispose of the 14th- seeded Kirilenko, blasting 22 winners and committing a mere six unforced errors while converting 87 percent of her first serves.

"I'm really out there just doing the best I can, just fighting for everything," said Williams. "I think with that attitude I'm just trying to stay in the tournament just to stay alive."

Only Maria Sharapova has been more dominant en route to the quarterfinals. Sharapova has lost only five games heading to the round of eight.

Williams will next face fellow American Sloane Stephens, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski. The 19-year-old Stephens, seeded 29th, broke at love to go up 6-5 in the third set, then celebrated when Jovanovski hit into the net on match point.

"I'll just treat it as another match, you just go out and do your best," said Stephens when asked about the possibility of playing Williams. "Regardless of who I play, it's still a tennis match and you have to go out and play your game no matter what."

The 15-time Grand Slam titlist Williams has been impressed with her fellow American and won't take her lightly as she continues her quest for a sixth Australian Open crown.

"I'm here to compete and do the best I can, as well as she," Williams noted. "And she's been doing really amazing. I'm really happy. I have a tough match, so we'll see."

The current world No. 1 Azarenka is trying for a repeat title in Melbourne and nearly saw the opportunity slip through her fingers in the third round when American Jamie Hampton pushed her in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 triumph. There was no such drama on Monday, as the Belarus native polished off Vesnina in just 57 minutes.

"It's getting there," said Azarenka. "With every match, you build up for the tough battles to come."

The quarterfinal matchup should, indeed, be a tough one with Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova on the opposite side of the net. The two-time major champion outlasted former world No. 1 and 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Kuznetsova, winner of the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open, advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2009 French. She's never been past the quarterfinals in Melbourne, falling in the round of eight in 2005 and again in 2009.

A pair of quarterfinals are on tap for Tuesday, as the second-seeded former No. 1 Sharapova will meet fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova and fourth-seeded Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska will battle sixth-seeded Li Na, the 2011 Aussie runner-up and French Open champ. Sharapova is the reigning Roland Garros champion who lost to Azarenka in last year's Aussie finale, titled here in 2008, and was also a Melbourne runner-up in 2007.

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