(January 3, 2013) In a battle of powerful groundstrokes, Serena Williams defeated fellow American Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 to gain the semifinals at the Brisbane International on Thursday. Williams will meet No. 1 Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final. The Belarusian topped Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-0.
Williams pegged her 19-year-old opponent as having great potential “the best in the world one day,” Williams said.
“She definitely pushed me. I’ve always said she’s a really good player. You have to expect that going up against what I would consider a top player.”
“I definitely want to thank (Sloane Stephens) for giving me such a great match, because I’m going up against another good player, great player, tomorrow, so I have to make sure I’m ready.”
Azarenka is looking forward to the match-up against Williams.”Well, it’s a tough match, there is no question about it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great test for the Australian Open.” Williams holds a career 11-1 record against Azarenka.
“I’m going up against the world’s greatest tomorrow. She had a fabulous (2012) year,” Williams said of Azarenka. “I feel like I have nothing to lose. She’s playing so well, she won I think in 20 minutes today. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a Brisbane semifinalist two years ago, stunned fourth seed German Angelique Kerber in two tiebreak sets 7-6(3), 7-6(3) to set up a semifinal match-up with Ukrainian lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko.
Andy Murray got a little more than he bargained for in Brisbane on Thursday. The Scot had to battle past Australian qualifier John Millman 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 in over two hours to get through the second round. He’ll face Denis Istomin next, who took out Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 7-5.
The veteran Hewitt was overpowered by No. 43 Istomin knocking 11 aces past his opponent.
January 3, 2013 Results
ATP Singles – Second Round
 A Murray (GBR) d [Q] J Millman (AUS) 61 57 63
G Dimitrov (BUL) d  M Raonic (CAN) 63 64
 J Melzer (AUT) d D Goffin (BEL) 64 76(4)
D Istomin (UZB) d [WC] L Hewitt (AUS) 75 75
ATP Doubles – Quarter-finals
M Melo (BRA) / T Robredo (ESP) d  C Fleming (GBR) / J Murray (GBR) 76(2) 64
M Baghdatis (CYP) / J Nieminen (FIN) d A Falla (COL) / S Giraldo (COL) 64 64
G Dimitrov (BUL) / K Nishikori (JPN) d [Alt] J Peers (AUS) / J Smith (AUS) 76(6) 75
SCHEDULE – FRIDAY, 4 JANUARY, 2013
PAT RAFTER ARENA start 11:30 am
M Baghdatis (CYP) vs  G Simon (FRA) – ATP
Not Before 1:30 PM
 A Dolgopolov (UKR) vs  K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
Not Before 4:00 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs D Istomin (UZB) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 V Azarenka (BLR) vs  S Williams (USA) – WTA
A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [LL] L Tsurenko (UKR) – WTA
SHOW COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
 J Melzer (AUT) vs G Dimitrov (BUL) – ATP
Not Before 2:30 PM
 E Butorac (USA) / P Hanley (AUS) vs M Baghdatis (CYP) / J Nieminen (FIN) – ATP
Not Before 5:00 PM
 S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) vs  A Groenefeld (GER) / K Peschke (CZE) – WTA