Redskins

Azarenka beats Lisicki, reaches Brisbane quarters

201301012049749910242-p2.jpeg

Azarenka beats Lisicki, reaches Brisbane quarters

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka opened her 2013 season with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday to join No. 3 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the Brisbane International quarterfinals.

Azarenka, who won here in 2009 without dropping a set, got the better of 37th-ranked Lisicki in a match that had nine breaks of serve.

The Belarusian won her first major at the Australian Open last year during a 26-match winning streak to start the season and spent most of 2012 atop the women's rankings.

She said her focus ahead of her first major title defense was more about attacking than defending.

``I actually don't really look at defending anything. I'm just looking to win,'' Azarenka said. ``I'm going to have the same mindset for as long as I'm playing.''

In earlier second-round matches, Angelique Kerber recovered from 5-2 down in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) and Sloane Stephens had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson to set up a quarterfinal against fellow American Williams.

Azarenka said Lisicki, who was serving at up to 121 mph, proved a tough match and a good measure of her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14.

She said Lisicki was ``serving some bombs,'' although the German player was only getting half of her first serves into play and had five double-faults. Lisicki mixed 36 winners with 36 unforced errors, trying to push Azarenka around the court.

``I had a tough challenge at the beginning,'' she said. ``It's always good to see where you're at, right at the start.''

She'll next play Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak, who has ousted former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Urszula Radwanska in matches decided by third-set tiebreakers.

``I hope she's tired,'' Azarenka joked. ``She's a young girl with a lot of potential. She's going to be really motivated. I'm looking forward to the challenge.''

Five of the top eight seeded players had already been eliminated midway through the second round.

Kerber narrowly avoided that fate, coming back from 4-1 down in the third set and clawing her way back in a tiebreaker when Puig was two points from the biggest victory of her career.

The 19-year-old Puig, ranked No. 124, buried a swinging volley into the bottom of the net at 5-2 in the tiebreaker and it changed the momentum of the match.

``For sure it was a surprise how she played. I didn't know her before, but, yeah, I'm sure that she'll be coming very soon into the top 50,'' Kerber said of Puig. ``I have a lot of confidence right now that I won again (in a) very close match.''

Stephens had a convincing win over Arvidsson and next faces a childhood hero.

``Obviously she's been a really great influence in my tennis year career. I'm excited to play her and get on the court with her. I think it'll be fun,'' the 19-year-old Stephens said.

Williams said she has been following Stephens' career and was ``a fan'' of her young Fed Cup teammate's style.

In her first tournament back since being sidelined by an abdominal injury following the U.S. Open, Stephens isn't awed by the prospect of taking on the 15-time Grand Slam winner.

``Obviously I always was like, `Oh, my God. I love her to death. She's amazing, whatever,''' Stephens recalled of her earliest meetings with Williams. ``Now she's like an actual person and I'm like, `Oh, hi. How is it going?' She's not like a hero anymore. She's just a friend.

``Even if I go out there and lose, just bomb it, I don't win a game, at least if I'm able to focus on myself and do what's right for me then it's not a loss.''

In men's second-round matches, third-seeded Gilles Simon of France beat Colombia's Alejandro Falla 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) and No. 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan had a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tommy Robredo of Spain. Sixth-seeded Florian Mayer lost 6-4, 6-2 to 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

In the night match, fourth-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov was leading 6-2, 4-1 when Jarkko Nieminen of Finland retired due to a migraine.

Quick Links

Sean Taylor is scaring Pro Bowl punters like Tress Way to this day

Sean Taylor is scaring Pro Bowl punters like Tress Way to this day

The Pro Bowl may not count for anything other than an accolade on a player's resume, but it has delivered some memorable moments over the years. 

Maybe the best Pro Bowl play ever was when Sean Taylor leveled former Bills punter Brian Moorman when the AFC tried to run a fake in the 2006 Pro Bowl. 

Tress Way is representing the Redskins in the 2020 Pro Bowl and still has that play in the back of his mind. 

When asked whether he'd try to pull off a fake punt of his own on Sunday, Way said yes but under specific conditions. 

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams are the starting safeties for the AFC, so while both are great players and Adams is a hard-hitter in his own right, none of them are Taylor. 

So if you see the NFC pull off a fake punt and Tress Way quickly gets rid of the ball, you'll know why. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

Braves' Dansby Swanson admits he hates facing Stephen Strasburg

Braves' Dansby Swanson admits he hates facing Stephen Strasburg

After winning the NL Cy Young award in back-to-back seasons, the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom holds the title of undisputed best pitcher in the NL East—if not the entire major leagues.

So when asked at the Braves' annual winter FanFest, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman were quick to admit that they hated facing deGrom more than any other pitcher in baseball.

But shortstop Dansby Swanson has another nemesis: Stephen Strasburg.

Dansby Swanson is not a fan of Stephen Strasburg from r/baseball

Swanson is 6-for-27 (.222) with one home run and 15 strikeouts against Strasburg, making it understandable why he'd hate facing the Nationals starter.

Unfortunately for Swanson, Strasburg signed a seven-year deal with the Nationals in December. The Braves infielder isn't going to be able to avoid facing him anytime soon.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: