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No. 1-ranked Azarenka into Brisbane semifinals after victory over Pervak

BRISBANE, Australia -- Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka wasted no time in a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak on Thursday, setting up a possible semifinal showdown with Serena Williams at the Brisbane International.

Azarenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, needed only 68 minutes to win her quarterfinal, breaking Pervak's serve seven times.

Pervak had opened the tournament with an upset win over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, but didn't have anything left to trouble Azarenka after coming off back-to-back matches decided in third-set tiebreakers.

“Well, it's a tough match, there is no question about it,” Azarenka said of the prospect of another chance against Williams, a 15-time major winner. “I'm looking forward to it. There is one more chance for us to meet, and it's going to be a great test for the Australian Open.”

Serena Williams, the reigning Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic champion showed plenty of emotion on key points in a heavy-hitting duel with Fed Cup teammate Sloane Stephens on Thursday before winning 6-4, 6-3.

Azarenka and Williams were the only two seeded players still in contention after No. 36-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia beat No. 4 Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), her second win over a Top 10 player this week after beating 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the first round.

Pavlyuchenkova has spent a bit of time with Williams at the Patrick Mouratoglou tennis academy in France, where she has been honing her game with five-time major winner Martina Hingis.

The 21-year-old Russian has even been singing karaoke with the two former No. 1-ranked players.

Pavlyuchenkova, a semifinalist here in 2011, will next play Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko, the lucky loser from qualifying who got into the main draw when No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova withdrew due to a sore right collarbone.

Tsurenko followed up her second-round win over Australia's Jarmila Gajdosova with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova.

In the men's second round, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria upset No. 2-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3, 6-4 and Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan had a 7-5, 7-5 win over former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.

The Olympic and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray was pushed further than he expected before winning his opening match 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 against Australian qualifier John Millman, who finished last year ranked No. 228. Murray will meet Denis Istomin in the quarterfinals.

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Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, serves on the way to winning her quarterfinal match against Ksenia Pervak, of Kazakhstan, at the Brisbane International tennis tournament on Thursday, Jan. 3. (AFP)

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