Doha, Qatar – World No. 1 Belarusian star Victoria round winners at the $2.168 million Qatar Open.
The Australian Open champion Azarenka, playing in her first tournament as world No. 1, leveled capable Romanian Simona Halep 6-3, 6-1 in 1 hour, 20 minutes on the hardcourts at Khalifa International Tennis Complex. Azarenka trailed 3-1 in the first set before winning eight straight games for a comfortable 6-3, 3-0 advantage.
The 22-year-old Azarenka is now a sizzling 14-0 this season, which also includes a title in Sydney last month.
Azarenka's quarterfinal opponent on Friday will be Belgian slugger Yanina Wickmayer, who was a 6-4, 6-0 victor against Russian Ksenia Pervak on Day 4.
Joining Azarenka in the round of eight were third-seeded U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, fourth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska and fifth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli. The Aussie Stosur stifled Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-3, 6-2, while the steady Radwanska rolled past American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko 7-5, 6-1 to set-up a match with another American, McHale, and the French Bartoli blitzed Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3, 6-3.
Safarova will face Bartoli here on Friday.
In other third-round action, the 19-year-old McHale overcame Israeli Shahar Peer 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Romanian Monica Niculescu topped Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Niculescu will tangle with Stosur on Friday.
The 2012 Doha champion will earn $385,000.