BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -Victoria Azarenka is blaming a bad pedicure for the injury that forced her out of a Brisbane International semifinal against Serena Williams.
The top-ranked Azarenka announced half an hour before the scheduled start of Friday's match that she had to withdraw after having treatment for an infected big toe on her right foot, saying she couldn't risk aggravating the problem ahead of her attempt to defend her Australian Open title starting Jan. 14.
The 23-year-old Belarussian, who last year won the Sydney International before claiming her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open during a 26-match winning streak, has lost all but one of her previous 12 matches against Williams, a 15-time major winner, and was 0-5 in head-to-heads in 2012.
She said she'd had the toe problem for 10 days but the infection got so bad that she had to visit a doctor and have part of the toe nail removed.
"It just got infected from a bad pedicure experience. I had somebody who gave me infection," she said. "Actually the doctor said it happens a lot. Never happened to me (before), so it's something that I am definitely going to prevent for the next time."
Williams advanced directly to the final where she'll meet Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who came back for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 semifinal win over Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. Tsurenko, the lucky loser in qualifying, was a late addition to the main draw after No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova withdrew due to a collarbone injury.
Azarenka will head to Melbourne and is hoping it will only take two days before she can continue fully preparing for the season's first major.
"I tried everything. We tried medication with taping, and I was playing through the pain for quite a while," Azarenka said. "It's just something that I had to do to make sure that I can be fully recovered and ready for Australian Open. It's that sort kind of compromise I had to take.
"It's important that the procedure has been done and the worst already passed by - I just need some time to get better."
Williams said it was important for Azarenka to be ready for the Australian Open.
"I like Vika. I think she's a great player. I love playing her," she said. "I had that toe problem just a couple weeks ago and it's painful. Doesn't sound painful, but it is. You can't walk with that. "