WTA Insider David Kane | 2015 women's doubles champion Lucie Safarova is out of the first major of the season, plus the semis are set across the Australian summer.
WTA Staff

- Safarova Stifled: Lucie Safarova was certainly aiming to build off of what was a career year for the Czech veteran, who reached her maiden major singles final and won two major doubles titles with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Still dealing with the bacterial infection that interrupted her Asian Swing last fall, Safarova made the decision to skip the Australian summer and, by extension, the first major of the year. Her withdrawal all but gurantees a Top 8 seed for Venus Williams, who is at her highest ranking heading into a major tournament since the 2011 Australian Open.

- Azarenka In Rhythm: With the field around her dealing with illness and injury, former No.1 Victoria Azarenka is in pole position to reemerge as a top tier threat at the site of her two major triumphs. Moving past US Open finalist and in-form Roberta Vinci with the loss of three games, Azarenka was in a jovial mood in press, bopping to the beat and bemusing reports by encouraging that they smile:

Into her second WTA semifinal in two years, Azarenka next plays rising American Samantha Crawford, a former junior Slam champion the two-time Australian Open champion admitted she'd yet to watch play.

- Soaring Samantha: Should she scout Crawford ahead of their semifinal, Azarenka will be in for quite the viewing experience. Playing in her first WTA Premier quarterfinal on Thursday, the 2012 US Open girl's singles champion dismantled Andrea Petkovic, 6-3, 6-0. The tall American possesses an unrelentingly powerful game that put her over the finish line in just under an hour.

Backing up her win over Belinda Bencic in the previous round, Crawford shows few signs of stopping, and seems to be taking all her newfound success in stride.

- Big Goals For Suárez Navarro: On the other half of the draw at the Brisbane International, Carla Suárez Navarro survived a gutsy challenge from American Varvara Lepchenko, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, to set up a semifinal encounter with Angelique Kerber. The Spaniard had a stellar first half of 2015, reaching finals at the Miami Open and the Internazionali BNL D'Italia and peaking at No.8 in the world. Despite slumping from the French Open through the fall, Suárez Navarro believes she's back on track and has even higher ranking aspirations in 2016.

- ASB Classics: While there have been more than a few medical dramas in Brisbane, the ASB Classic has been bringing more than its fair share of epic matches in Auckland. One day after the Broady/Ostapenko face-off, former Wimbledon darlings and current qualifiers Kirsten Flipkens (2013 semifinalist) and Tamira Paszek (2011-2012 quarterfinalist) did battle for nearly three hours before the Austrian finally emerged on top, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3. Paszek led by a set and two breaks before tentatve play and renewed intent from the Belgian pegged her back to one set apiece. Racing ahead yet again in the final set, Paszek needed seven match points to reach her first ASB Classic semifinal since 2008, losing to eventual champion Lindsay Davenport. The two had last played a long three setter at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, and shared their mutual respect on Twitter after the match:

For Paszek, it will be a tough turnaround in the semifinals, but can take comfort in the fact she's surrounded by a new team that is composed of former ATP pro and coach Andrei Pavel and physio Iulia Moldovan, and the fact that her next opponent, Julia Goerges, had a long match of her own. The German needed just over two hours to fend off Nao Hibino. Goerges and Paszek are fighting for their first WTA final since 2012 - the former at the Generali Ladies Linz, and the latter at Aegon International Eastbourne (her biggest title to date).

- Easy, Aga: Agnieszka Radwanska has continued the upward momentum that led her to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global title at the end of last season. Looking to reach her 25th WTA final, Radwanska could nab a Top 4 Australian Open seed away from Maria Sharapova, who would drop to No.5 if the Pole wins her semifinal against Anna-Lena Friedsam.

Always love playing in Asia. Fans are great!

A photo posted by Aga Radwanska (@aradwanska) on