Victoria Azarenka ready for 'top battles' after reaching Australian Open quarter-finals

Defending champions beats Elena Vesnina in Melbourne

Victoria Azarenka is ready for some “top battles” as she bids to defend her Australian Open crown - starting with a tricky-looking quarter-final against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Azarenka breezed through her last-16 encounter with Elena Vesnina today, winning 6-1 6-1 in 57 minutes - the latest in a series of mis-matches in the women's draw.

But Kuznetsova is a different proposition.

Having spent the last six months of 2012 recovering from knee surgery, the two-time major champion is now fit and looking good.

"I think it's going to be a very tough match," said top seed Azarenka.

"I can see Sveta has come back much fresher, much stronger.

"She knows how to handle big stages, big tournaments. She's a grand slam champion as well.

"It's definitely an exciting match for me to be in. I'm sure it's going to be really tough but I will give my best."

Azarenka was pleased to have made untroubled progress today after being embroiled in a three-set battle with American Jamie Hampton on Saturday.

World number 47 Vesnina was overpowered and overwhelmed on Rod Laver Arena with Azarenka returning to the kind of form which carried her to the title 12 months ago.

"I felt like I was playing pretty well today," she added.

"I was focused and in control from the beginning. That was important for me.

"I feel like I'm improving from match to match. I just want to keep going the same way.

"With every match you build up, the top battles are starting now and it's exciting to be this far in the tournament."

Kuznetsova, a former world number two whose lay-off has seen her drop to 75, came through a tough three-setter with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, winning 6-2 2-6 7-5.

And she admitted she had even surprised herself in reaching the last eight.

"If you had asked me before coming to Australia...I would have laughed," she said.

"I have been working hard but still I have not had much time to work on my fitness."

Kuznetsova has won four of her seven meetings with Azarenka but lost both in 2012 and she knows she is facing a player who has developed over the past 12 months.

"She has got calmer, more consistent," she said. "She works differently and has different goals.

"I think her head was letting her down all the time before. She would always go crazy in matches. But she's changed and become more stable."

American Sloane Stephens continued her impressive run in Melbourne by reaching her first grand slam quarter-final with a 6-1 3-6 7-5 defeat of Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.

The 19-year-old will meet the winner of tonight's clash between title favourite Serena Williams and Maria Kirilenko.

And it was Williams who came through with another masterclass on Rod Laver Arena.

Kirilenko was barely in the contest as the American cruised to a 6-2 6-0 win in under an hour.


Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits