Azarenka rolls on in Qatar

World number one eases into the semi-finals of the Qatar open with victory over Yanina Wickmayer.

    Azarenka notched up her fifteenth straight win of 2012 in Doha [EPA]

    World number one Victoria Azarenka won her 15th consecutive match of the season to make the semi-finals of the WTA Qatar Open on Friday, a year after she almost quit the sport.

    The Belarusian star defeated Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-0, 6-4 to stay on course for a third title this year, after victories at Sydney and the Australian Open.

    Australia's Samantha Stosur also advanced with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Romania's Monica Niculescu, while France's Marion Bartoli defeated Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

    Bouncing back

    Azarenka lost in the first round to Daniela Hantuchova in Doha last year, and after another lacklustre show in Dubai, where she was beaten by Flavio Pennetta, she had become so demoralised that she even considered quitting the sport for good.

    "Last year by this time I was a little bit of a mess. I couldn't control any of my emotions, and I didn't really enjoy playing tennis," she added.

    "I lost a really, really bad match here and a few before that. It was just not fun for me to do, because I'm the type of player that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of desire.

    "Every time I was stepping on the court, it was a misery to me. So I just told my mom, I don't want to play anymore because it's not fun.

    "She's like 'You know what? I think maybe you're tired, you're burned out. Just come home and see what happens'.

    "And then a few long talks with my grandmother and I kinda bounced back. I realised there are more important things in life than just losing a tennis match."

    Azarenka was in imperious form in the first set on Friday but stuttered slightly in the second when she was broken for the second time in the eighth game by Wickmayer to level the scores at 4-4.

    But Wickmayer could not hold her serve in the next game, hammering the ball into the net and then sending a backhand wide to concede what proved to be the decisive break for Azarenka.

    The top seed then closed out the match by winning the final game without conceding a point.

    Stosur through

    Earlier, Australian third seed Stosur overcame a spirited fightback by Niculescu to advance to her first semi-final of the year.

    Stosur, the reigning US Open champion, won in a little short of two hours after totally losing her momentum in the second set and surviving a tough spell in the third when Niculescu took three games in a row to level at 3-3.

    Niculescu had a wonderful opportunity to break Stosur in the seventh game when she was leading 30-0, but sent an easy volley long after a lengthy rally to give the Australian the opening she was looking for.

    Bartoli ended Safarova's giant-killing run, but not before conceding the second set, and gave credit to her fitness.

    "The turning point was my fitness," the Frenchwoman said. "I was fitter than her and that helped me win the match."

    Safarova had knocked out former world number one Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the last eight.

    In the night match, fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland thrashed Christina McHale of the United States 6-1, 6-1 to set up a semi-final clash with Azarenka.

    The other semi-final will be played between Stosur and Bartoli.



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