MELBOURNE, Australia —
The top-seeded Azarenka beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 in the early quarterfinal at Rod Laver Arena. Maria Sharapova, who has lost only nine games in five matches, plays Li Na in the other semifinal Thursday.
Williams hurt her back in the eighth game of the second set and things got progressively worse. She yelled at herself on several occasions, and smashed a racket into the court, earning a $1,500 fine from tournament officials.
"I was running to the net for a drop shot," Williams said, describing the lead up to her injury. "As I went to hit it, it was on the backhand. I even screamed on the court. I totally locked up after that."
She reiterated after the match that her injuries had made this Australian Open difficult for her.
"Absolutely, I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do," she said. "I've been thrown a lot of (curve) balls these two weeks."
Stephens has been, too, but has coped well, and the magnitude of her accomplishment only hit her while she was warming down after the match.
"I was stretching, and I was like, 'I'm in the semis of a Grand Slam.' I was like, 'Whoa. It wasn't as hard as I thought,'" she said. "To be in the semis of a Grand Slam is definitely a good accomplishment. A lot of hard work."
The No. 29-seeded Stephens hadn't been given much of a chance of beating Williams, who lost only four matches in 2012 and was in contention to regain the No. 1 ranking at the age of 31.
Williams' latest winning streak included a straight-set win over Stephens at the Brisbane International this month.