Azarenka & Sharapova remain on China collision course

ESPN staff
October 4, 2012
Victoria Azarenka is the No. 1 seed in Beijing © PA Photos

Top seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova remain on course for a big-hitting showdown at the conclusion of this week's China Open, after both players cruised into the last eight on Thursday.

Azarenka, the world No. 1, was rarely troubled in her encounter with Russian Elena Vesnina, winning 6-3 6-3 in a little over an hour and a half. Vesnina was broken four times to one in a match that Azarenka controlled from start to finish.

If there is one element of the game the Belarusian would like to improve it is surely her second serve, which coughed up nine double-faults. However, her power - allied to some lovely variation - kept Vesnina on the back foot in a routine win.

Azarenka will now face Romina Oprandi in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova's progression was even more serene against qualifier Polona Hercog, who was beaten 6-0 6-2. Sharapova needed just 74 minutes on court to get the job done.

Unlike Azarenka, Sharapova's serving statistics made for superb reading, with 82 per cent of her first efforts hitting the target. She dropped 12 points on serve in the match and looks in fine shape to challenge for the title.

"I played really well in the beginning and got a little tense in the second set," Sharapova said. "But I felt like I really needed that."

The Russian now meets Angelique Kerber in the last eight, after Kerber beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-1 2-6 6-4. Both players created 10 break chances in an entertaining contest, but the fifth seed proved more clinical to advance in the competition.

Li Na was the last player to book her quarter-final spot, edging a tight evening encounter with Peng Shuai 4-6 6-2 7-6(3). Li committed 16 double faults in an error strewn performance, but victory saw her close in on the final spot at the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

Three other places were confirmed on Thursday, with Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber & Sara Errani all confirmed for the season-ending event.

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