BRISBANE, Australia — Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka opened her 2013 season with a 6-3, 6-3 win Wednesday over Sabine Lisicki to join No. 3 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the Brisbane International quarterfinals.
Azarenka won her first major at the Australian Open last year during a 26-match winning streak to start the season and spent most of 2012 atop the women’s rankings.
She said her focus ahead of her first major title defense was more about attacking than defending.
“I actually don’t really look at defending anything. I’m just looking to win,” Azarenka said. “I’m going to have the same mindset for as long as I’m playing.”
American Sloane Stephens had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson to set up a quarterfinal against Williams. She’ll face a childhood hero.
“Obviously, she’s been a really great influence in my tennis,” the 19-year-old Stephens said. “I’m excited to play her and get on the court with her. I think it’ll be fun.”
Williams said she has been following Stephens’ career and was “a fan” of her young Fed Cup teammate’s style.
In her first tournament back since being sidelined by an abdominal injury following the U.S. Open, Stephens isn’t awed by the prospect of taking on the 15-time Grand Slam winner.
“Obviously, I always was like, ‘Oh, my God. I love her to death. She’s amazing, whatever,’” Stephens recalled of early meetings with Williams. “Now she’s like an actual person and I’m like, ‘Oh, hi. How is it going?’ She’s not like a hero anymore. She’s just a friend.
“Even if I go out there and lose, just bomb it, I don’t win a game, at least if I’m able to focus on myself and do what’s right for me, then it’s not a loss.”
Kerber recovered from 5-2 down in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7).
HOPMAN CUP: In Perth, Australia, Bernard Tomic upset top-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 but Australia lost to Serbia 2-1 on Wednesday.
Ana Ivanovic evened the round-robin event by overwhelming Australian 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-3. The Serbians combined to win the mixed doubles 6-4, 6-7 (8), 10-6.
SHENZHEN OPEN: In Shenzhen, China, top-seeded Li Na advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Julia Cohen, of the United States, in the second round on Wednesday.
No. 2-seeded Marion Bartoli also advanced by defeating Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele 7-5, 6-4. Bartoli will take on fifth-seeded Klara Zakopalova for a place in the semifinals.