Rome, Italy – Red-hot Serena Williams and former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka were a pair of easy third-round winners Thursday at the $2.37 million Italian Open, a clay-court French Open tune-up.
The reigning No. 1 Williams dismantled helpless 14th-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 6-1 in only 66 minutes, while the third-seeded Australian Open champion Azarenka was having her way with Ayumi Morita 6-1, 2-0 when the Japanese player retired on Day 4 at Foro Italico.
The 2002 Rome titlist Williams, fresh off her clay-court title in Madrid last week, has won her last 21 matches overall and will meet Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in Friday's quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, former world No. 1, two-time Rome titlist and former runner-up Jelena Jankovic ousted fifth-seeded 2012 Rome runner-up Li Na 7-6 (7-2), 7-5 and seventh-seeded 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy handled 12th-seeded Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 2-0, retired. This year's Aussie Open runner-up Li lost to Maria Sharapova in last year's Rome finale.
Other third-round play saw Romanian Simona Halep upend 13th-seeded Italian crowd favorite Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-2 and the aforementioned Suarez Navarro whip lucky loser and fellow countrywoman Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-2, 6-3.