DOHA  - World number one Victoria Azarenka won her 15th consecutive match of the season to make the semi-finals of the WTA Qatar Open on Friday. The Belarusian star defeated Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-0, 6-4 to stay on course for a third title this year, after victories at Sydney and the Australian Open.

Azarenka was in imperious form in the first set but stuttered a bit in the second when she was broken for the second time in the eighth game by Wickmayer to level the scores at 4-4. But Wickmayer could not hold her serve in the next game, hammering the ball into the net and then sending a backhand wide to concede what proved to be the decisive break for Azarenka.

The top seed then closed out the match by winning the final game to love. Earlier, Australian third seed Samantha Stosur overcame a spirited fightback by Romania's Monica Niculescu to advance to her first semi-final of the year. Stosur, the reigning US Open champion, won 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in a little short of two hours after totally losing her momentum in the second set and surviving a tough spell in the third when Niculescu took three games in a row to level at 3-3.

Niculescu had a wonderful opportunity to break Stosur in the seventh game when she was leading 30-0, but sent an easy volley long after a lengthy rally to give the Australian the opening she was looking for. Stosur, the world's fifth-ranked player, latched onto it gratefully to hold her serve, before winning the next two games in a hurry. "It was an up-and-down match for both of us," said Stosur. "I was able to pick up my game at the end of it. I believed in myself."

Meanwhile, Lucie Safarova, who had knocked out the second seed Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday and sent former US and French Open champion and 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova packing with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 victory, lost to French Marion Bartoli in third quarter-final of the day. Kuznetsova was the 12th of the 16 seeds in the 64-player draw to crash out of the event over the first four days.

Fifth seeded Bartoli beat the giant-killer and inform Safrova in three sets 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. Bartoli won the set 7-5 and Safrova made a comeback by staging a 6-2 victory in the second set. But in third set, Bartoli did not give any chance to Safrova and won the set and the match 6-1.