Azarenka, Li reach semis

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 3:56 PM ET

MADRID -- Surging Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Australian Open runner-up Li Na led the charge into the semifinals at the $4.5 million Madrid Open.

The fourth-seeded Azarenka held off Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in 1 hour 54 minutes, while a sixth-seeded Li, of China, snuck past game 41st- ranked American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 11 minutes on the red clay at the Magic Box.

The world No. 5 Azarenka has now won 19 of her last 21 matches, including back-to-back titles in Miami and Marbella last month. If she can reach the final here, Azarenka would become the first-ever Belarusian player to reach No. 4 in the world.

The 21-year-old Azarenka's semifinal opponent on Saturday will be rising German Julie Goerges, who handled Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 24 minutes on Day 7 of this nine-day event. Goerges popped six aces and broke Pavlyuchenkova three times while holding her serve throughout on Friday.

Goerges beat Azarenka in Stuttgart two weeks ago when the Belarusian retired from their bout after dropping the first set.

The 22-year-old Goerges upset world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki here on Thursday and took care of former top-ranked star Dinara Safina on Wednesday. The German also upended Wozniacki in the final in Stuttgart last month.

Friday's quarterfinal nightcap saw 16th-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova overcome Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. The lefthanded Kvitova will encounter Li in Saturday's other semi, with the two women meeting for the first time.

The 2011 Madrid champion will pocket $920,000.


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