Azarenka sweeps into quarters
Doha - Victoria Azarenka swept into the quarter-finals of the WTA Qatar Open with a swift demolition of Romanian Simona Halep here on Thursday.
The world's top-ranked player won 10 games in a row to prevail 6-3, 6-1 against 63rd-ranked Halep, who produced only brief moments of brilliance to secure a break in either set.
But that was not enough to quell Belarus's Azarenka, who stepped up her game a few notches after trailing 3-1 in the first set and raced to victory thereafter.
"I started slow but I am glad I turned it around," said Azarenka, the first Belarusian to win a Grand Slam tournament and take the world number one ranking.
She could have won the second set to love, but suffered a glitch in the sixth game when she was broken by the Romanian.
But Azarenka broke back in the next game to settle the issue.
"I kept my composure," said Azarenka, who will now meet Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in the quarter-finals. Wickmayer defeated Kazakhstan's Ksenia Pervak 6-4, 6-0.
Earlier, Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska fought back from a break down to advance to the last eight with a 7-5, 6-1 win over the USA's Varvara Lepchenko.
Radwanska, the world number six and fourth seed in Qatar, was too strong for the Uzbek-born Lepchenko, who is still to win a WTA title after turning pro as a 15-year-old in 2001.
"I lost my serve in the first set and at that point the only thing I wanted was to fight back," said Radwanska, the winner of seven career titles and a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open this year.
"She was hitting the ball well, but I got my game together," added Radwanska, who won three games in a row after trailing 4-5 in the first set.
Meanwhile, Israeli Shahar Peer's quest for a first title in the Middle East ended prematurely yet again when she fell in three sets to the USA's Christina McHale, who won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Eleven of the 16 seeds in the 64-player tournament have crashed out over the first three rounds of the $2.16 million event.
Results from the fourth day of the Qatar Open WTA event on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) bt Simona Halep (ROM) 6-3, 6-1
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) bt Ksenia Pervak (KAZ) 6-4, 6-0
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x4) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 7-5, 6-1
Christina McHale (USA) bt Shahar Peer (ISR) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Monica Niculescu (ROM) bt Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
Samantha Stosur (AUS x3) bt Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 6-3, 6-2
Marion Bartoli (FRA x5) bt Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 6-3, 6-3
Lucie Safarova (CZE) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS x14) 7-6 (8/6), 6-3