Rome, Italy (Sports Network) - Red-hot Serena Williams, two-time reigning
champion Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka were a trio of easy third-round
winners Thursday at the $2.37 million Italian Open, a clay-court French Open
The world No. 1 star Williams dismantled helpless 14th-seeded Slovak Dominika
Cibulkova 6-0, 6-1 in only 66 minutes.
The 2002 Rome titlist, fresh off her clay-court title in Madrid last week, has
now won a career-best-tying 21 straight matches and will meet Spaniard Carla
Suarez Navarro in Friday's quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the second-seeded former No. 1 Sharapova lambasted 16th-seeded
American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-1 and the third-seeded Australian Open
champion and former top-ranked Azarenka was having her way with Ayumi Morita
6-1, 2-0 when the Japanese player retired on Day 4 at Foro Italico. Sharapova
was last week's Madrid runner-up to the mighty Williams.
The reigning French Open champion Sharapova is seeking a third straight
Italian Open championship, having beaten Li Na in last year's finale.
Sharapova's quarterfinal opponent will be Italian favorite Sara Errani, who
lost to the tall Russian in last year's French Open final.
Former world No. 1, two-time Rome titlist and former runner-up Jelena Jankovic
ousted the fifth-seeded Aussie Open runner-up and 2012 Rome finalist Li in 7-6
(7-2), 7-5 fashion, while a seventh-seeded Errani handled 12th-seeded Russian
Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 2-0, retired.
Other third-round play saw Romanian Simona Halep upend 13th-seeded Italian
crowd favorite Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-2 and the aforementioned Suarez Navarro
whip lucky loser and fellow countrywoman Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-2, 6-3.
The Sports Network