Azarenka, Sharapova reach Beijing quarters

World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and second seed Maria Sharapova were a pair of easy third-round winners Thursday at the $4.8 million China Open tennis event.

The Australian Open champion and U.S. Open runner-up Azarenka, of Belarus, cruised past Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-3, while the French Open champion and former No. 1 Sharapova, of Russia, drilled Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog 6-0, 6-2 on the hardcourts at the National Tennis Centre.

"I played really well in the beginning and got a little tense in the second set," Sharapova said after topping Hercog. "But I felt like I really needed that challenge."

Also on Day 6, fifth-seeded German left-hander Angelique Kerber held off 10th- seeded former world No. 1 Dane Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 and seventh- seeded Chinese star Li Na came from behind to beat compatriot Peng Shuai 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2). Wozniacki was the Beijing champion two years ago and titled in Seoul two weeks ago.

Fridays' quarterfinals will pit Azarenka against Swiss Romina Oprandi; Sharapova versus Kerber; third-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska against Li; and ninth-seeded French slugger Marion Bartoli versus Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.

The 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska beat German Andrea Petkovic in last year's Beijing finale and was a China Open runner-up in 2009. Radwanska was a runner-up in Tokyo last week.

The 2012 Beijing titlist will collect $848,000.