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Azarenka, Sharapova advance to China quarters

BEIJING — Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and No. 2 Maria Sharapova reached the China Open quarterfinals Thursday with straight-set wins.

Azarenka easily beat Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-3, while Sharapova defeated Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog 6-0, 6-2.

Azarenka will face Romina Oprandi of Switzerland, while Sharapova will play Angelique Kerber of Germany. Kerber beat former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

"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 challenge."

Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title in four years at the French Open.

Azarenka is hoping to rebound from last week in Tokyo when she withdrew from the tournament after a bout of dizziness in the third round. Azarenka has won four times this year, including the Australian Open.

In men's singles, Mikhail Youzhny of Russia defeated Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-3 and Zhang Ze of China beat fifth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Also, Feliciano Lopez of Spain beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-3, 7-6 (7).

Japan Open

At Tokyo, Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic and Milos Raonic advanced to the quarterfinals of the Japan Open with comfortable victories.

Second-seeded Berdych of the Czech Republic earned a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Alejandro Falla of Colombia, Serbia's Tipsarevic beat Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland 6-4, 6-2, and Canada's Raonic went through when Serb Victor Troicki retired with injury when trailing 3-0 in the first set.

Tipsarevic will take on Raonic in the quarters, while Berdych will play either Spain's Tommy Robredo or local hope Kei Nishikori.

Top-seeded Andy Murray had already booked his spot in the quarters today, when he will meet Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka.

Berdych exhibited solid groundstrokes and a strong serve throughout the match at Ariake Colosseum, and closed it out with his ninth ace.

The first set was on serve until the sixth game, when Berdych reeled off three backhand winners to break and go up 4-2. Berdych took the set 6-3 in 30 minutes.

Berdych, ranked sixth in the world, won 93 percent of his first serves in the opening set. The Czech is seeking his second title of the year after winning indoors in Montpellier, France, in February.

The 27-year-old Berdych unleashed some fierce forehands in the second set as he notched his 50th ATP Tour win of the season.

Berdych lost to Murray, the defending champion here, in the semifinals at the U.S. Open last month.

In later second-round action Thursday, Juan Monaco, the fourth seed, will play Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, while Nishikori takes on Robredo.