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Azarenka reaches Brisbane quarters

Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka opened her 2013 season with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday to join No. 3 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the Brisbane International quarterfinals.

Azarenka, who won here in 2009 without dropping a set, got the better of 37th-ranked Lisicki in a match containing nine breaks of serve.

In earlier second-round matches, Angelique Kerber recovered from 5-2 down in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) and Sloane Stephens had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson to set up a quarterfinal against fellow American Williams.

Azarenka said Lisicki, who was serving at up to 194 kph (121 mph), proved a tough match and a good measure of her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14.

She said Lisicki was ‘serving some bombs,’ although the German player was only getting half of her first serves into play and had five double faults. Lisicki mixed 36 winners with 36 unforced errors, trying to push Azarenka around the court.

‘I had a tough challenge at the beginning,’ she said. ‘It’s always good to see where you’re at, right at the start.’

She’ll next play Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak, who has ousted former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Urszula Radwanska.

 ‘I hope she’s tired,’ Azarenka joked. ‘She’s a young girl with a lot of potential. She’s going to be really motivated. I’m looking forward to the challenge.’

In men’s second-round matches, third-seeded Gilles Simon of France beat Colombia’s Alejandro Falla 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) and Kei Nishikori had a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tommy Robredo of Spain. Sixth-seeded Florian Mayer lost 6-4, 6-2 to Marcos Baghdatis.
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