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Updated January 5th, 2024 at 14:44 IST

Elena Rybakina and Victoria Azarenka advance to the Brisbane International semifinals

Second-seeded Elena Rybakina only needed to play seven games in her quarterfinal Friday to reach the final four at the Brisbane International.

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan plays a shot in her quarter-final match against Anastasia Potapova of Russia during the Brisbane International | Image: AP
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Second-seeded Elena Rybakina only needed to play seven games in her quarterfinal Friday to reach the final four at the Brisbane International.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka had a tougher run, needing three sets, about 2 1/2 hours and joked about the prospect of having to wear protective headwear to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, the No. 3 seed.

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Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, won the first set 6-1 before 11th-seeded Anastasia Potapova retired from their match with an abdominal injury. She’ll next play either Linda Noskova or Mirra Andreeva.

Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and ’13, clinched her victory in a tense match three games after Ostapenko’s emotional outburst at chair umpire Julie Kjendlie.

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“With Jelena, sometimes you just have to put on a helmet and try to stay in there,” Azarenka said. "She’s an incredible player and a Grand Slam champion, and she’s proved many times she can beat anybody on any given day.

“The quality of tennis was incredible, so to be able to go through ... I’m very proud.”

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Azarenka hit 16 aces, had only two double-faults and moved well but struggled at times to handle Ostapenko's powerful groundstrokes in the second and third sets.

Ostapenko broke early in the third set with a backhand winner but wasn't able to consolidate as Azarenka broke back. When Azarenka lunged forward to retrieve a drop shot and won the point to hold for a 5-4 lead in the deciding set, Ostapenko questioned whether the ball had bounced twice.

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“You make so much mistakes” the Latvian player told the umpire. "I never want you on my match again. You ruin my matches.”

Ostapenko lost the next two points but won four straight to hold serve and make it 5-5, before Azarenka went on a roll and won eight of the last nine points to reach the semifinals again.

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She'll face either top-seeded compatriot Aryna Sabalenka, the defending Australian Open champion, or fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

Rafael Nadal will be aiming to extend his comeback tournament from a year-long injury layoff when he meets Australian Jordan Thompson in a quarterfinal nightcap on Pat Rafter Arena.

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The 22-time major winner has had straight-sets wins over Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler in his first two competitive matches since the 2023 Australian Open.

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Published January 5th, 2024 at 14:44 IST

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