Azarenka, Sharapova reach last eight

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Azarenka_China Getty Images World No 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Beijing – Top seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova reached the last eight of the China Open Thursday, both recording their third consecutive straight-sets victories, but there was a shock in the men's draw with Richard Gasquet losing.

World No 1and first seed Azarenka dispatched Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final tie with Switzerland's Romina Oprandi.

The 23-year-old from Belarus has yet to drop a set in the tournament, defeating France's Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0 in the first round and Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-4, 6-2 in the second.

“It was a little bit of a challenge today, for sure,” Azarenka said.

“I felt like I could have been a bit more aggressive and not hesitate so much.

“When I won that last point, I was relieved and happy to finish the match in two sets.”

Second-seed Sharapova, number two in the WTA rankings behind Azarenka, defeated Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog, ranked 90th in the world, 6-0, 6-2 at the capital's National Tennis Stadium.

Sharapova, 25, had beaten Romania's Simona Halep 7-5, 7-5 in the first round and Sorana Cirstea, also of Romania, 6-2, 6-2 in round two.

“I had a long first round, even though it was two sets, but today and yesterday was definitely a little bit quicker,” Sharapova said.

“I played really well in the beginning and got a little tense in the second set, but I felt like I really needed that challenge.

“It's nice to be in the quarter-final stage of this tournament.”

Sharapova will face her first real test of the Premier Mandatory event in the next round when she takes on either fifth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany or former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

The China Open is the fourth and final compulsory tournament of the women's calendar, behind only the Grand Slams and season-ending WTA Championships in prestige.

In the men's section, fifth-seed Gasquet of France suffered a second-round loss to Chinese wild card Zhang Ze in three sets.

Ze defeated Gasquet, who won the Thailand Open last week to end a two-and-a-half-year title drought, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

The Frenchman admitted afterwards that his exploits in Bangkok had left him tired but said Ze, cheered on by an excited home support, had been the better player and deserved his victory.

“Last week I played a big tournament. I'm not physically 100 percent, but it's not the reason I lost,” Gasquet said.

“He's talented, he played aggressive and fast, and at the end he played better than me. He deserves this victory.” – Sapa-AFP


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