Azarenka injury sends Serena into final
Top seed Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn from her much-anticipated Brisbane International semi-final against Serena Williams on Friday after failing to recover from an infected right big toe.
Azarenka was due to play Williams in a rematch of last year's thrilling US Open final, which Williams won 7-5 in the third set.
However, after undergoing a medical procedure on her toe on Thursday, Azarenka decided she could not take to the court for her clash with Williams, who will now play Russia's Anastasia Pavyluchenkova in Saturday's final.
"It's been there for the last 10 days and it's been getting worse," the world number one said. "I had to take action, which I did yesterday, and I didn't have enough time to recover."
Azarenka said the toe became infected after a pedicure and said she had tried taping it and playing through the pain. But after it failed to improve she decided to undergo medical treatment.
"It's just something that I had to do to make sure that I can be fully recovered and ready for the Australian Open," she said.
"It's a compromise I had to make. It's just very unfortunate timing, because I was really looking forward to playing. But I'm also quite happy I had two matches here already, which was kind of the point, to come here and get some matches."
Azarenka's withdrawal is the second high profile casualty to hit the Brisbane tournament after second seed Maria Sharapova pulled out with a collarbone injury before her first match.
Pavlyuchenkova reached the final after beating Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko, who lost in qualifying but came into the tournament at the last minute when Sharapova pulled out. Tsurenko showed no signs of nerves and played some superb tennis to take the first set, with an upset looking on the cards.
But Pavlyuchenkova, 21, settled her nerves and after saving a break point at the start of the second set she took control and eased to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win in almost two hours.
"I didn't expect such a good start to the year and I'm very pleased with what I've achieved in this tournament," the world number 36 said. "But there's another match tomorrow so I don't want to relax too much now."
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