Serena reaches Brisbane final after Azarenka pulls out

Serena Williams advanced to the final at the season-opening Brisbane International after Victoria Azarenka pulled out of their highly anticipated semifinal because of a toe injury.

Azarenka had a minor procedure performed on the toe, trying to make sure she is fully ready for the Australian Open, which starts in 10 days.

"It's a right toe infection," said Azarenka on Friday. "It's been there for about 10 days and it's been getting worse a little bit. I had to make sure I could be fully recovered and ready for the Australian Open. It's a compromise I kind of had to take. But it's very unfortunate timing, because I was really excited to play today."

Maybe not so much, though.

Williams has dominated the series with Azarenka, winning 11 of the 12 lifetime meetings.

"I like Vika. I think she's a great player. I love playing her. It sucks," Williams stated about not being able to play Azarenka, although she did have sympathy for her injury. "I had that toe problem just a couple of weeks ago and it's painful -- God, it's so painful. Doesn't sound painful, but it is. You can't walk with that. I hope she gets better fast."

Williams will meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Saturday's final. The Russian ended Ukrainian lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko's run with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph in the only semifinal played Friday.

Pavlyuchenkova will take a 3-1 lifetime mark in finals into Saturday's title match. She was last year's runner-up at the U.S. Open tune-up in Washington and hasn't won a title since 2011 in Monterrey.

Williams, meanwhile, is gunning for her 47th career title. She won seven times last year, including Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the U.S. Open.

The 31-year-old American superstar has won all three lifetime meetings with Pavlyuchenkova, including a 6-2, 6-1 thumping in last year's only matchup in Madrid.