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.

PA

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?