Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka became the first player through to the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International courtesy of a 7-5, 6-2 win over France's Clara Burel. 

The eighth-seeded Azarenka needed 1 hour and 33 minutes to end a firm challenge from 22-year-old Burel, a former junior World No.1 now ranked No.56, in their first-career meeting. After Azarenka built a 4-1 lead in the first set, the match got complicated -- she lost three straight games, and Burel had a break point for a 5-4 lead -- before reestablishing herself in an eventual straight-sets win. 

The 34-year-old is through to the quarterfinals at the tournament for the fifth time in her career. Azarenka won titles in Brisbane in 2009 and 2016, and was also a finalist in 2014.

Weathering the storm: Burel more than doubled Azarenka's winner total (30 to 14) in defeat, but also hit more than twice the number of unforced errors (22 to 10). But the key for the match came in break point conversion: Both women created five chances -- and while Azarenka broke four times, Burel only broke her once.

Azarenka speaks: "I think she played really well. I have to give her credit," Azarenka said afterward. "She was changing up the game, really passing me so well today. I was trying to be aggressive, come to the net, but I felt like she was really on top of me. She did some amazing passing shots, some counter-attack balls.

"I felt like I started really well, and maybe [then] let her play her game too much. It was a very competitive match. Whenever I needed, I was able to step up my game."

Ostapenko next up: Two-time Australian Open titlist Azarenka will now face another Grand Slam champion, No.3 seed Jelena Ostapenko, in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko advanced by overcoming No.16 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in 2 hours and 17 minutes on Thursday.

Highlights: Ostapenko d. Pliskova

The 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko and former World No.1 Pliskova came into the match with a deadlocked head-to-head at five wins apiece. Naturally, the pair engaged in a close battle before Ostapenko took command in the final set, winning four of the last five games.

Ostapenko boldly saved eight of the 11 break points she faced in the match. Big-serving Pliskova fired 18 aces in the clash but only won 31 percent of her second-service points.

Ostapenko snapped Pliskova’s 10-match winning streak at the Brisbane International. Pliskova, who defeated former World No.1 Naomi Osaka in the second round, is a three-time Brisbane champion, including at the two most recent editions of the tournament in 2019 and 2020.