Minor complaints may have forced big guns Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep to withdraw from the Brisbane International, but that’s the last thing Victoria Azarenka is likely to do.
The two-time Australian Open champion is aiming to get as much match practice as possible before the opening grand slam of the year later this month after an injury-marred 2015 campaign.
Azarenka overcame a spirited display from Belgian lucky loser Yasmine Bonaventure on Pat Rafter Arena on Wednesday to book a quarter-final berth against Italy’s Roberta Vinci.
The Belarusian broke world No.170 Bonaventure’s serve following a near 20-minute game early in the opening set before completing a 6-3 6-2 win.
While Sharapova (forearm) and Halep (Achilles) both quit the tournament before hitting a ball competitively, Azarenka says after being sidelined since September last year she can’t get enough match action.
“Definitely the best improvement is to do it in the match,” Azarenka said.
“I definitely missed playing since I haven’t in a while, so I’m really enjoying myself on the court right now and trying to do the best out there.”
US Open finalist Vinci poses a different challenge for Azarenka, with the 32-year-old full of confidence after she stunned Serena Williams in New York last year.
“Obviously she’s been playing really well and showing some great results,” Azarenka said.
“I think you can see improvement in her game.”
American qualifier Sam Crawford provided the shock of the day, the 20-year-old eliminating Swiss seventh seed Belinda Bencic 7-5 7-5 in the biggest win of her career.
The 2012 junior US Open champion will next face Germany’s Andrea Petkovic for a semi-final berth.
Petkovic, who beat Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-4, admitted she would need to do her homework on her opponent.
“It’s going to be classic YouTube stalking from my side,” Petkovic said.
“I don’t know if I’m going to find a lot, but she must be playing tremendously well to beat Bencic.”
Fellow German Angelique Kerber raced into the last eight with a 6-3 6-0 demolition of American Madison Brengle.
She’ll face Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals.