Azarenka bests Kuznetsova to reach Aussie semis

World No. 1 and defending champion Victoria Azarenka rolled into the semifinals of the Australian Open with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Wednesday.

The match did not start in Azarenka's favor, as the Belarusian fell into an early 3-1 hole in the first set after a 10-deuce game Russia's Kuznetsova was finally able to take with her first break.

But Azarenka returned the favor with a break of her own while also holding serve on her next two attempts to knot the score at 4-4.

Each player held serve over the next two games until Azarenka earned her second break of the set and then fought through another tough deuce to take the 77-minute first set.

The second set started with three straight breaks before Azarenka finally held serve at love to jump on top 3-1.

Azarenka then closed out her dominant second set with two more breaks to advance and keep her hopes of a repeat title alive.

Wednesday's other quarterfinal match will pit third-seeded former No. 1 Serena Williams versus 19-year-old 29th-seeded fellow American Sloane Stephens.

Williams owns 15 major singles titles, including last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open championships, and she's an Open Era-record five-time Aussie Open titlist.