Serena Williams cruised past No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 Friday to advance to the Madrid Open semifinals along with top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.
Williams sealed her seventh straight win over Sharapova with an emphatic slam on the new blue-clay court. Azarenka overcame a shaky start to beat French Open winner Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The ninth-ranked Williams opened strong, hitting six aces and earning two early breaks to take the first set.
Sharapova broke at love to even the score at 2-2 in the second set, but she quickly squandered her break with a costly sixth double-fault to fall behind for good.
Williams, who improved to 11-0 on clay this year, will face either U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur or Czech Lucie Hradecka.
After Azarenka struggled on serve early on, last year’s runner-up found her stride and broke her Chinese opponent’s first two service games of the second set en route to pulling even at a set each.
Azarenka, who has won four titles this season, then used her powerful groundstrokes to take a 4-0 lead in the decider before holding off Li’s late charge.
“There are a lot of things that I had to change and come up with in order to surprise her because she was pretty unbelievable in the first set,” said Azarenka. “I had to turn something around, I don’t know if it was confidence or if it was self belief or just pushing myself to be better and really wanting to win the match.”
Azarenka said she supported Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in their criticism of the change away from red clay to the new surface.
“I do agree that it is very slippery. You feel unstable sometimes, actually, a lot of times,” she said. “But right now there is no point on talking about it. After the tournament all the players can get together and discuss it.”
The Belarusian will face Agnieszka Radwanska after she beat American Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4.
On the men’s side, Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro hit 10 aces to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4 and move on to a semifinal with Tomas Berdych.
Berdych dispatched Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2, as the Spaniard made 24 unforced errors and showed little of the flare he displayed in the upset of the second-ranked Rafael Nadal on Friday.
Later, defending champion Novak Djokovic plays Serbian countryman Janko Tipsarevic before Roger Federer faces David Ferrer.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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