BRISBANE, Australia - Serena Williams moved through to the final of the Brisbane International on Friday night, though it probably wasn't the way she wanted it to happen, as Victoria Azarenka had to pull out from their semifinal match at the Premier-level tournament due to a right toe injury.
Azarenka had been struggling with a right toe ailment for a while. "It's a right toe infection - it's been there for about 10 days and it's been getting worse a little bit," the World No.1 told reporters. "I had to take action on it, which I did yesterday - it was a minor surgery, I had to take something out of my toe. And unfortunately I didn't have enough time to recover to be able to play the semifinals today."
With the Australian Open coming up, Azarenka didn't want to take any chances. "I had to make sure I could be fully recovered and ready for the Australian Open. It's a compromise I kind of had to take. But it's very unfortunate timing, because I was really excited to play today. But then again I'm also quite happy I had two matches in already, which was kind of the point of coming here, to get some matches.
"The doctor had told me I wouldn't be able to play for three, four days, but today I saw him in the morning and he said it was actually much better than he thought - he expected a much worse outcome.
"So maybe two days and I can start slowly."
Williams talked about the walkover. "I like Vika. I think she's a great player. I love playing her. It sucks," she commented. "I had that toe problem just a couple of weeks ago and it's painful - God, it's so painful. Doesn't sound painful, but it is. You can't walk with that. I hope she gets better fast.
"I'm definitely doing enough to prepare and be ready. I feel like even though I didn't play a match tonight I played some really good matches here. It's just like a regular tournament for me. It's going to be fine."
By virtue of the walkover over the No.1-seeded Azarenka, the No.3-seeded Williams moves through to the final, where she will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who put an end to the run of Ukrainian lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko, 46 61 62. After a tricky 48-minute first set, Pavlyuchenkova went on complete cruise control in the next two sets, needing just an hour and 10 minutes to win them both combined.
"I'm really pleased with how I came back and with what I've done this week," Pavlyuchenkova said after the match. "I'm really happy to be in the final of my first tournament of the year here in Brisbane."
Pavlyuchenkova is now through to her fifth WTA final, going 3-1 in her first four - but more importantly, this is her first final at a Premier-level tournament, the others all at International-level events.
Williams goes into the final with some staggering numbers - not only does she lead all active players with 46 WTA titles (Venus Williams is next with 44 WTA titles), but she has also gone 51-2 since the start of last April, the only losses during that eight month span coming in the first round of the French Open (to Virginie Razzano) and in the quarterfinals of Cincinnati (to Angelique Kerber).
Williams has beaten Pavlyuchenkova in all three of their previous meetings.
"What can I say about Serena? There's so much to say - she's just a great champion," Pavlyuchenkova said. "There's some chance, but with her power and the way she can serve, it will be difficult. But I'll try to go out there and win - all I can do is just go out there and fight and we'll see what happens."