Preview: Victoria Azarenka vs. Sloane Stephens

Victoria Azarenka from Belarus celebrates defeating Monica Niculescu in the first round of the  Australian Open tennis championship on January 15, 2013
© AP Photos
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Australian Open semi-final between defending champion Victoria Azarenka and American Sloane Stephens.

Victoria Azarenka can take one step closer to successfully defending her Australian Open title on Thursday when she meets American Sloane Stephens in the semi-finals.

Despite coming through a tricky third-round clash with Jamie Hampton, the Belarusian world number one has progressed comfortably in Melbourne this year as she looks to win her second major title.

Stephens's route to the last four saw her take out notable giant-killer Laura Robson in the third round before an eye-catching triumph over Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.

The 19-year-old lost the opening set to the 15-time Grand Slam champion before rallying against an injury-hit Williams to cause one of the upsets of the tournament and put her place on the tennis map.

It is the first time that Azarenka and Stephens have met in their professional careers.

Head-to-Head record:

Azarenka 0-0 Stephens

Previous best at Australian Open:

Azarenka: Winner 2012
Stephens: Semi-finals 2013

Route to semi-finals:


R1: Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-4
R2: Eleni Daniilidou 6-1 6-0
R3: Jamie Hampton 6-4 4-6 6-2
R4: Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-1
QF: Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 6-1


R1: Simona Halep 6-1 6-1
R2: Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-3
R3: Laura Robson 7-5 6-3
R4: Bojana Jovanovski 6-1 3-6 7-5
QF: Serena Williams 3-6 7-5 6-4

Sports Mole says: Azarenka to prove too much for the young American

US player Sloane Stephens smiles during her press conference, after her quarter-final win over Serena Williams on January 23, 2013
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