World number one Victoria Azarenka has continued her Down Under love affair by warming up impressively for her Australian Open tennis defence.
In her first match of the 2013 season, Azarenka maintained her flawless record at the Brisbane International with a 6-3, 6-3 second-round victory over German Sabine Lisicki.
The 23-year-old did not drop a set en route to the inaugural tournament title in 2009 and she never gave the world number 37 a look in during her return on Wednesday night.
The flat, heavy groundstrokes and strong return of Lisicki's big serve held sway over one hour 27 minutes to take her unbeaten match record to four against the German.
Azarenka thrives on the Australian plexicushion courts and broke through for her maiden grand slam win at Melbourne Park last year - wiping Maria Sharapova off Rod Laver Arena 6-3, 6-0 in the final - after previously taking out the Sydney International.
It was the springboard to a 26-match unbeaten streak, the longest on the WTA Tour since Martina Hingis in 1997, which propelled her to the number one ranking.
Azarenka will play Kazakhstan qualifier Ksenia Pervak, who upset Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round, in a Thursday quarter-final but is set for a semi-final showdown against Serena Williams in a mouth-watering replay of the 2012 US Open final.
World number three Williams will play compatriot Sloane Stephens in her Thursday night quarter-final.
Lisicki upset Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon last year but could not keep the pressure on Azarenka.
The 23-year-old threatened to take the match into a third set by clawing back to 3-4 in the second but the top seed lifted to close out the match.
Azarenka praised Lisicki's serve and fight in what was a tough battle.
"At the beginning, it's always good to see where you're at right from the start so I'm happy I went through it," she said.
"There's things to work on and hopefully tomorrow I will be better."
In the night's other match in the women's draw, American Sloane Stephens beat Sofia Arvidsson 6-3, 6-4.
Earlier in the day, Jarmila Gajdososova became the last Australian woman to be eliminated from the tournament when she lost to lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko.
In the men's competition, fourth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Jarko Nieminen 6-2, 4-1 on Wednesday evening when the Finnish player pulled out due to a migraine.
Earlier, fifth seed Kei Nishikori beat Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-3, third seed Gilles Simon beat Alejandro Falla 7-6, 7-6 and Marcos Baghdatis upset sixth seed Florian Mayer.
AAPTags: sport, tennis, brisbane-4000 First posted January 02, 2013 23:09:46