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Serena sets up Azarenka date in Brisbane semis

Serena Williams seized her opportunities in a heavy-hitting match against Sloane Stephens to set up a semifinal against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka at the Brisbane International.

Azarenka had no trouble in a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak on Thursday before Williams beat Stephens 6-4, 6-3.

Williams converted both of her break points and fended off one break chance against in each set to hold off her 19-year-old Fed Cup teammate, later saying Stephens had the potential to be ‘the best in the world one day.’

Williams has an 11-1 record against Azarenka and was 5-0 against the 23-year-old Belarussian in 2012, including the U.S. Open final.

Stephens was hitting the ball hard and cleanly, and got the better of some powerful rallies with her childhood hero but lacked the experience in the two key moments of the match.

With the Australian Open starting on Jan. 14, and neither Azarenka nor Williams playing another tournament before then, Friday’s semifinal shapes as a classic.

‘I’m going up against the world’s greatest tomorrow. She had a fabulous (last) year,’ Williams said of Azarenka. ‘I feel like I have nothing to lose. She’s playing so well, she won I think in 20minutes today. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.’
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