Serena wins to set up Azarenka clash
Serena Williams was given a stiff workout before booking her place in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with a 6-4 6-3 win over Sloane Stephens.
Williams has 15 grand slam titles to her name and will be a strong favourite to make it 16 at the Australian Open. If she is looking to sharpen her game and fitness, she was given the ideal test by Stephens who matched her for long spells.
There was little between the pair in the opening set, with Williams cashing in on her only break point to move ahead.
Williams' serve was not at its sparking best and Stephens matched her from the back of the court. But in the eighth game of the second set, Williams turned on the power to break and she held serve one game later to book her place in the last four.
And in the semi-finals, she will face an early test of her mettle as she will meet the the No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka who continued her fine start to the season, dropping just one game as she crushed Ksenia Pervak 6-1 6-0 to advance.
There was a shock as the No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber was beaten in two tiebreak sets by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Her reward is a meeting with Lesia Tsurenko who found her stride to beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-4.