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Top seeds march into quarterfinals at Qatar Open

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Viktoria Azarenka moved into the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open on Thursday night with an overpowering 6-0, 6-0 victory over unseeded American Christina McHale.

Azarenka, the top seed and defending champion here, took a 3-0 lead just 10 minutes into the third-round match despite the windy conditions which have made it rough for players the past two days.

The Belarusian, who won the Australian Open, is now 11-0 on the season. Azarenka will take on sixth seed Sara Errani of Italy in the quarterfinals on Friday.

It was a sublime performance by Azarenka, who displayed a solid serve and pounded away from the baseline, never letting the 44th-ranked McHale get into the contest.

Azarenka broke McHale’s serve in the second, fourth and sixth games of the opening set, which she claimed in 32 minutes.

McHale showed some life in the first game of the second set, when she forced Azarenka to work hard to hold her serve in a battle that took 10 minutes.

After Azarenka held, she broke in the next game to go up 2-0 and the outcome was all but academic. Azarenka completed the whitewash in 1 hour, 7 minutes, when McHale double faulted on match point.

“Everything was working for me today,” said Azarenka. “We had a couple of tough games, but I stayed focused and was able to be dominant. The conditions were difficult, but there is nothing you can do about that.”

Azarenka executed her strategy to near perfection on this night.

“I felt like I came out very focused and with a good mind-set, with a good game plan,” she said. “She has a big weapon that can come from anywhere with her forehand. I knew I had to stay aggressive.”

Serena Williams, the second seed, cruised into the quarters with a 6-0, 6-3 win over unseeded Urszula Radwanska of Poland that took just 57 minutes.

Williams will battle Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the seventh seed, in the last eight. Kvitova defeated 11th seed Nadia Petrova of Russia 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to advance.

With the win, Williams moved one victory away from regaining the world No. 1 ranking. If she beats Kvitova to make the semifinals, Williams will be back on top for the first time since 2010. At 31, she would also be the oldest female No. 1 ever.

After romping through the first set, Radwanska put up a bit more resistance in the second, breaking Williams twice.

“I made a few errors that I shouldn’t have made,” said Williams. “I didn’t make a lot of errors in the first set, and I started making some that were just ridiculous. She started playing a lot better. I think every time I play her she improves.”

Maria Sharapova, seeded third, marched on with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.

“The conditions are certainly tough,” Sharapova noted. “I think in my career I played the windiest match ever here five years ago.”

The Russian acknowledged that the elements just had to be dealt with.

“It’s one of those days where you almost know that you might not be playing your best tennis,” she said. “I certainly didn’t today. But it’s good to get through in those conditions.”

Sharapova will take on eighth seed Samantha Stosur of Australia in the quarters, after she recorded a 6-4, 7-5 triumph over Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Urszula’s older sister, moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) over 13th seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.

Agnieszka Radwanska completely dominated the opening set, which saw breaks in the first three games. Ivanovic put on a spirited effort in the second set, but succumbed in the tiebreaker after winning the first two points.

The victory was the sixth straight for Agnieszka Radwanska over the former world No. 1. Ivanovic has not beaten the elder Radwanska since 2008 in Linz, Austria.

Agnieszka Radwanska will next face 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki, after the Dane notched a 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 win over Germany’s Mona Barthel.

Errani bested unseeded Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 to earn the meeting with Azarenka.