BRISBANE: Former world number one Victoria Azarenka waltzed into the final of the Brisbane International when she thrashed American wildcard Samantha Crawford 6-0, 6-3 in just 68 minutes on Friday.
Crawford had enjoyed an unexpected run to her first WTA semi-final but she was no match for Azarenka, who strolled through the first set in just 23 minutes.
Crawford overcame her nerves in the second set and began to find her range with her powerful groundstrokes, but Azarenka was always in control as she reached her third Brisbane International final.
The two-time Australian Open champion won her maiden WTA title in Brisbane in 2009 and finished runner-up to Serena Williams in 2013, the last time she reached a final on the tour.
“I am very happy to be in the final — it’s been a long time,” she said.
“It’s one of my favourite tournaments, so I’m happy to be here playing good tennis.”
Azarenka will take on Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the decider and will look to climb back up the world rankings after foot and leg injuries hampered her performances in 2014 and 2015.
Kerber earlier brushed aside Carla Suarez Navarro in the first semi-final 6-2, 6-3 in 75 minutes.
The fourth seed was always in control, constantly attacking Suarez Navarro’s serve while winning her own with ease.
The pressure told on the Spaniard, who lost her serve early in both sets and then struggled to stay in touch.
“I came here to have a lot of matches,” Kerber said. “Right now I’m in the final, so that’s not bad.
“When you start the season you don’t know exactly where you’re standing. You don’t know how the others are playing and how the others worked in the last few weeks.
“I can just say that I’m feeling good — I’m feeling better every match.”
Kerber said she had worked hard on her serve in the off-season and that was paying dividends this week.
“I’m feeling that the serve is also a little bit faster,” she said. “Also I’m trying to go for it with my second serve, not only pushing the ball.
“Of course that needs time, but I think I’m on the way.”
Azarenka and Kerber have played six times previously with the Belarusian winning all six matches, including a three-set epic at last year’s US Open.
“We have marathon matches all the time so hopefully it will be another good one,” Azarenka said.