DOHA: Maria Sharapova continued her untroubled progress at the Qatar Open yesterday, brushing aside Australia’s Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-4 to reach the semifinals.
The Russian, who began the week with the possibility of reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking, has not dropped a set in her three matches, a feat equaled by world No.1 Victoria Azarenka who saw off Italian Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2.
American Serena Williams, 31, will return to the top of the rankings if she beats Petra Kvitova later in the day to set up a semifinal showdown with Sharapova.
Should 15-times grand slam champion Williams beat the Czech she will go back to No.1 for the first time since October 2010 and become the oldest woman to top the rankings.
Sharapova held an 11-2 career record over Stosur and was never threatened during an 82-minute victory.
Australian Open champion Azarenka’s hopes of holding on to the top ranking are out of her hands, even if she wins the title.
In Sao Paulo, Rafael Nadal beat Joao Souza of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Brazil Open, his second tournament since returning from a left knee injury.
Nadal broke Souza’s service late in each set to win in 1 hour, 18 minutes at the indoor clay-court tournament in South America’s biggest city.
The victory over the 140th-ranked Brazilian came a day after Nadal withdrew from the doubles tournament to look after the sore knee, which had kept him sidelined for seven months.
Earlier in the day, defending champion Nicolas Almagro of Spain reached the quarterfinals by beating Chilean qualifier Paul Capdeville 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
The 11th-ranked Almagro won the last four games to stay on track for his third straight title in Sao Paulo — and fourth overall.
The second-seeded Spaniard will face David Nalbandian, who beat Guido Pella 6-4, 6-2 in an all-Argentine match.
The Brazil Open is Almagro’s first tournament since his five-set loss to compatriot David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
Third-seeded Juan Monaco lost an opening-round match for the third time this season, falling to Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-5, 6-2.
The 15th-ranked Argentine had his service broken four times in the second-round loss at the Ibirapuera arena. Monaco, who had a bye in the first round, lost his opening match at the Australian Open and last week in Vina del Mar, Chile.
The 80th-ranked Bolelli needed 1 hour, 16 minutes to defeat Monaco and advance to the quarterfinals in Brazil. He will face Albert Montanes, who beat seventh-seeded Pablo Andujar, also of Spain, 7-5, 6-2.
Italy’s Filippo Volandri won 6-3, 6-2 against fifth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci, Brazil’s top ranked player.
In Rotterdam, Netherlands, Grigor Dimitrov rallied from a set down to beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-7 (4), 7-6 (0), 6-3 and book a place in the semifinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament yesterday.
Baghdatis took the first-set tiebreak after neither player managed to break serve. Both then broke once in the second set before Dimitrov ran away with the tiebreak, not allowing Baghdatis a single point.
The talented Bulgarian broke Baghdatis’ first service game of the final set to set up his win, before leaping over the net to hug Baghdatis.
Dimitrov said he made the jump with “my last one percent of power.” In other quarterfinals, Roger Federer played Julien Benneteau, Juan Martin del Potro played Jarkko Nieminen, and Martin Klizan faced Gilles Simon.