Brisbane sun lights up WTA quarter-final line-up
By Ros Satar
- Seeds left:  Angelique Kerber,  Carla Suárez Navarro,  Roberta Vinci
- Victoria Azarenka is the only former champion left in the draw
-  Garbiñe Muguruza brings the WTA Top 5 tally to a woeful 100% retirement stat
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Who would be an odd-numbered seed?! The quarter-final field is set after the shock withdrawals of defending champion Maria Sharapova and top seed Simona Halep within around an hour of each other.
Former champion Victoria Azarenka was dominant in her first match, but with all the draw hype having surrounded a potential match up between her and Halep, it would fall to Lucky Loser Ysaline Bonaventure to provide the thrills.
In the opening stages she certainly swung free, setting Azarenka on edge, and including a mammoth 17-minute game with 12 deuces and converted on its fifth break point.
Experience had to come to the fore for the former World No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion, as she weathered the storm to set up a quarter-final with a rejuvenated Roberta Vinci. The Italian had already dispatched Jelena Jankovic, and Dominika Cibulkova – no mean feat when either of these determined scramblers are on form.
Vinci, who has already announced that she will retire at the end of the year is also just hitting free and enjoying her time out on court. Azarenka has the better of their three meetings, but in fairness their last meeting was in Tokyo, 2012, and Vinci’s latest run of form versus Azarenka’s recent struggles to return to form could make this another tough match up for the ‘dabbing’ Belarusian.
Just who is American qualifier Samantha Crawford? Mainly a stalwart at the moment on the ITF circuit, she scored a good first win over Aussie wildcard Priscilla Hon before delivering the seed-killing surprise of the tournament so far in bouncing seventh seed Belinda Bencic out of the tournament. A decent server, if her 13 aces were anything to go by, she scored her first Top 20, indeed Top 50 win and earns a match up against Andrea Petkovic.
The German has renewed her love of tennis after a rough end to her year last year, and has been back to her humourous self in press conferences, but expect her to be all business-like as she bids to ensure at least one German makes it to the semi-finals.
At the other side of the draw, steady Angelique Kerber was on fire as she smoked Madison Brengle in a 6-3 6-0 rout in the blistering heat of the Brisbane sun. She was in no mood to hang about, rocketing through into the quarter-final in just over an hour.
Her head to head with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is 4-3 including a couple of battles here in Brisbane. The first honours went to the Russian in the 2013 quarter-final, and she retired against Kerber in the second round the year after.
Sadly the prospect of a Garbiñe Muguruza/Azarenka final was shelved when an unhappy looking World No. 3 retired after dropping the first set tie-break to Varvara Lepchenko. She will now face Carla Suárez Navarro, who has been quietly efficient while all the drama has been happening elsewhere!
With Muguruza’s retirement, we saw the WTA Top 5 out of action in a season that was just six days old. For this tournament though, it really is wide open.
Our picks for the semi-final line-up:
- Azarenka v Petkovic
- Kerber  v Suarez Navarro 
The quarter-finals will start in Thursday in Brisbane at 11am (1am GMT).
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