Azarenka to face Kerber in Brisbane final; Djokovic vs. Nadal for Doha title
Check out some of the headlines and results from the top tournaments around the world that you may have missed while you were sleeping and look ahead to this weekend's matchups at the various Australian Open tune-ups.
Azarenka dabs her way into Brisbane final vs. Kerber
Victoria Azarenka ended Samantha Crawford's run in Brisbane on Friday, booking her spot in the final with a 6–0, 6–3 win over the 20-year-old American. The former World No. 1 face will No. 10 Angelique Kerber in the finals on Saturday, where she looks to capture her first title since winning in Cincinnati in 2013. Kerber—who has never beaten Azarenka in her career—will be playing for her fifth Premier title in the last nine months and her eighth WTA title overall.
(Need a refresher on the history of the dab? We've got you covered.)
The last time the pair faced each other was at last year's U.S. Open, where Azarenka won 7–5, 2–6, 6–4 in a third round match that lasted two hours and 52 minutes. Kerber saved five match points in the ninth game of the final set and the match was one of the best of the women's tournament. Get your popcorn (coffee?) ready—match starts at 7:30 p.m. local time in Brisbane, 4:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Key rankings jump for Radwanska with Shenzhen win
Can Agnieszka Radwanska continue her stellar run? The top seed in the tournament, Radwanska secured her spot in the Shenzhen Open final on Friday with a 6–2, 6–4 win over Anna-Lena Friedsam, picking up where she left off since winning the WTA year-end championships in Singapore in October. The win also puts the Pole ahead of Maria Sharapova in the WTA Rankings, as she's projected to move up from No. 5 to No. 4 on Monday—a critical boost ahead of the Australian Open, where the rankings will determine the tournament's seeds.
"I've been feeling good from the beginning of the year," Radwanska said. "I've been playing some good tennis, especially here in Shenzhen this week, and now I have one more match to go to win here."
Radwanska will face American Alison Riske in the final after she defeated Timea Babos 6–2, 6–4.
Nadal and Djokovic to play for Doha title
Rafael Nadal is into his 99th career final after easily beating Illya Marchenko 6–3, 6–4 on Friday. Novak Djokovic overcame a poor start and a tough second set against Tomas Berdych on Friday to win 6–3, 7–6 (3) in Doha to advance to the finals and move one step closer to capturing his 60th ATP title.
The highest-ranked player Nadal has played this week in Doha is No. 66 Robin Haase, while Djokovic's path to the final has gone through No. 49 Fernando Verdasco, No. 35 Leonardo Mayer and No. 6 Berdych. Their head-to-head matchup is locked at 23-all, with their most recent matches coming last year at the ATP Finals in November (Djokovic, 6–3, 6–3), Beijing in October (Djokovic, 6–2, 6–2) and Roland Garros in May (Djokovic, 7–5, 6–3, 6–1).
Auckland semifinals delayed due to rain
In Auckland, the second semifinal match between Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens was stopped due to rain on Friday. Stephens led the first set 5-2 before the match was called off and rescheduled to the following day at 10.30 a.m. local time, 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The final will also be played that same day at 2:30 p.m. local time, 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
In the first semifinal of the day, German Julia Goerges beat Austrian qualifier, Tamira Paszek 6–4, 6–2. After Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic were both knocked out in the first round, No. 3 Wozniacki and No. 5 Stephens are the highest seeds remaining.
Federer takes Brisbane title defense to semifinals
Roger Federer battled through to fend off Grigor Dimitrov 6–4, 6–7(4), 6–4 in the Brisbane quarterfinals on Friday. After delaying his opening round match because of an illness, Federer had to bounce back in less than 24 hours and Dimitrov put up a solid fight against the World No. 3 and defending champion in Brisbane.
"I'm not going to tell you too much, but it was tough in a way," Federer said of his illness. "Body is not quite ready, so it's good to get through it without any issues."
Federer will face Dominic Thiem, who took down Marin Cilic 2–6, 7–6 (4), 6–4, on Saturday, and in the other semifinal matchup, No. 4-seed Milos Raonic will take on No. 7-seed Bernard Tomic, who upset second-seeded Kei Nishikori 6–4, 1–6, 6–3 in the quarterfinals on Friday.