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Australian Open 2013: Defeat for Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova may prove strength in depth in women's game

The top three seeds are out before the semi-final stage in Melbourne

It is probably way too early to talk about a changing of the guard in women’s tennis, but the failure of the world’s top three players to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open suggests that there may be greater strength in depth than had appeared to be the case.

In the first half of last year it seemed that Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova had pulled clear of all their rivals, but none of  the top three made it to the semi-finals here.

Following the early exits of Williams and Sharapova, Azarenka joined the exodus when she was beaten 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 by Agnieszka Radwanska. The 24-year-old Pole and world No 5, who was runner-up at Wimbledon two years ago, played some beautifully inventive tennis, outsmarting Azarenka with her clever collection of slices, drop shots and lobs.

It was the first time since 1997 that none of the top three seeds reached the semi-finals here. The line-up in the last four sees Radwanska take on Dominika Cibulkova, who brushed aside the Romanian Simona Halep, winning 6-3, 6-0. China’s Li Na takes on the Canadian teenager, Eugenie Bouchard.