Victoria Azarenka starts season with win

Moscow: World No.1 Victoria Azarenka overcame the first hurdle of the new season on Wednesday with a straight-sets win over former Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki at the Brisbane International.

Azarenka showed few signs of off-season rust in the 6-3, 6-3 second-round win and now faces a quarter-final against Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak, who upset former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the first round.

The Belarusian played a disciplined game against Germany`s Lisicki, who was seeking to recover from a poor end to last season and took a high-risk approach with 36 winners and the same number of unforced errors.

Azarenka has now won all four of her meetings with Lisicki, who is ranked 37th in the world, all four matches played on hard courts.

Elsewhere, third seed Serena Williams learned she will face fellow American Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals after the young Floridian beat Sweden`s Sofia Arvidsson 6-3, 6-4.

Fourth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany set up a quarter-final clash with Russia`s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but was made to fight all the way for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(7) win over Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig.

In the men`s draw, French third seed Gilles Simon came through a tight match to beat Colombia`s Alejandro Falla 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in the second round, while Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori reached the quarters with a straight 6-3, 6-3 victory over Spaniard Tommy Robredo.

The only shock came when veteran Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis beat sixth seed Florian Mayer of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Ukraine`s Alexandr Dolgopolov faces Finland`s Jarkko Nieminen in the second round later Wednesday.

The Brisbane International is a USD 437,000 tournament on the men`s ATP and women`s WTA tours and is seen as a major warm-up event for the Australian Open, and this year`s event boasts eight of the top ten players in the women`s game.