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No. 1 Azarenka suffers first loss of 2012; Venus' return ends

March 29, 2012 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Victoria Azarenka rose to the top of the world rankings after winning January's Australian Open.
Victoria Azarenka rose to the top of the world rankings after winning January's Australian Open.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Victoria Azarenka suffers her first loss of 2012 to Marion Bartoli at the Miami Masters
  • World No. 1 Azarenka had started the year with a 26-match winning streak
  • Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska into the last four after beating Venus Williams
  • Two-time Miami champion Kim Clijsters to be sidelined for a month with hip injury

(CNN) -- Women's tennis No. 1 Victoria Azarenka is looking forward to more success despite the end of her perfect start to 2012.

The Belorussian had won 26 successive matches going into Wednesday's Miami Masters quarterfinal -- the best start to a season since Martina Hingis went 37-0 in 1997.

However, the Australian Open champion suffered a shock defeat by French seventh seed Marion Bartoli, who will face world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska in Thursday's semis after the Pole ended the comeback of Venus Williams.

"What I've done in the last couple of months, I have to be really proud of myself," the 22-year-old Azarenka told the tournament's official website after her 6-3 6-3 loss.

"I could have maybe played better today, that's for sure, but I gave it all I had. But Marion played really well today, and she deserves the win. What else can I say? I have to look forward."

Defending champion Azarenka had won eight of her previous 10 meetings with the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, including January's Sydney International where Bartoli lost despite leading in both sets.

"I was up 5-2 in the first set and 4-1 in the second set, and I lost both," the 27-year-old Bartoli said. "So I knew I had to stay really mentally tough and not show her anything.

Pete Sampras on the state of US tennis

"Even when I lost those three games in a row, I didn't get down on myself -- I had this positive energy. I was able to turn the match around again and step inside the court and play some great points."

Fifth seed Radwanska booked her place in the last four with a commanding 6-4 6-1 win over former world No. 1 Williams, who was playing in her first tournament for seven months.

Seven-time grand slam winner Williams had not played on the WTA Tour since withdrawing from last year's U.S. Open, having been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome -- an incurable condition which causes pain in the joints and fatigue.

"I didn't have a good day," said the 31-year-old Williams, who has won the tournament three times andw as runner-up in 2010. "Unfortunately, I just couldn't press the issue. I don't feel like she did anything special. I just couldn't. I couldn't get myself to do it today.

Sampras demonstrates his signature shot

"If I'm not feeling my best, then it becomes mental and I have to fight, and you have to fight and fight and fight. Today I just I didn't conquer it mentally. I have to be there mentally more than the next player."

The winner of the Radwanska-Bartoli evening match will take on either former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki or four-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova, who meet in Thursday's opening semifinal.

Meanwhile, two-time Miami champion Kim Clijsters is facing four weeks out after injuring her right hip during her third-round defeat to fellow Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

"The current prognosis is that Kim will have to recover for four weeks first," read a statement on the four-time grand slam winner's website. " As soon as she has returned to Belgium, she will have additional tests."

The 28-year-old is aiming to return at the Madrid Masters in May ahead of the season's second grand slam event, the French Open.

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