Williams closes in on number one
Serena Williams moved one win away from the world number one ranking by beating Urszula Radwanska in Doha on Thursday.
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Williams, who was hampered by injury at the Australian Open last month, advanced to the quarter-finals of the Qatar Total Open when she defeated Radwanska 6-0 6-3 in emphatic fashion.
While she brushed off the idea of returning to the summit of women's tennis earlier this week, she surely cannot ignore that she is now so close to being where she deserves, at the top.
Williams has now won 58 of her last 61 matches, a stretch dating back to the beginning of the claycourt season last April - the only three people who have beaten her since are Virginie Razzano, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens.
However, in her quarter-final Williams will play against a resurgent Petra Kvitova, an assignment that is not that straightforward.
Former Wimbledon champion Kvitova came from a set down to beat Nadia Petrova 4-6 6-4 6-3.
In other results on Thursday, the tournament's number two seed Maria Sharapova, who stands a chance of claiming the top ranking if Williams loses on Friday, beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 7-5, while Samantha Stosur beat Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-3.
"The conditions are certainly tough," said Sharapova.
"I think the windiest match I've played in my career was here many years ago, five years ago, I think it was the first round. It was pretty brutal.
"Today was one of those days where you go out there and almost know you might not be playing your best tennis. I certainly didn't play my best tennis today. But it's good to get through in these conditions.
"Klara is a really tricky player to play against. I've definitely had trouble against her in the past, three-setter at Roland Garros last year last year. She can play - she hits the ball pretty big out there."
Current world number one Victoria Azarenka romped to a 6-0 6-0 victory over Christina McHale.
She needed just 67 minutes to see off her American opponent, converting six of her 10 break-point opportunities to remain on course to defend her title.
McHale did not play as badly as the final scoreline suggests, though she did produce three double faults in the last game to seal her exit from the event.
"Everything was working for me today," Azarenka, who will face Italian Sara Errani next, said afterwards.
"When I stepped on court I felt my game. When I had a couple of difficult games I stayed focussed and took advantage of that, and that was the key.
"Christina has played some excellent matches and had some big wins and so I had to stay focussed. I think I got rid of my frustrations (with the windy weather) yesterday."
Elsewhere, Caroline Wozniacki had to overcome strong winds on an outside court and the determined challenge of Mona Barthel to reach the last eight.
The Dane trailed 5-3 in the first set tie-break but fought back to secure a 7-6 (8/6) 6-3 victory in a match which saw her father argue with the umpire from the stands over a decision.
Agnieszka Radwanska will be next for Wozniacki, the fourth-seeded Pole having recorded a 6-1 7-6 (8/6) win over Ana Ivanovic, the former French Open champion from Serbia.