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Best players so far, Williams, Wozniacki to meet in Rogers Cup quarter-finals

MONTREAL - While top players keep dropping around her, Serena Williams plows ahead at the women's Rogers Cup.

On a day that saw French Open champion Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova eliminated from the US$2.44 million hardcourt event, Williams served impeccably to defeat 15th-seeded Lucie Safarova 7-5, 6-4 in the third round on Thursday.

She is 7-0 in her career against the Czech left-hander.

The match played out from the service line, with one break in each set going to Williams. In the last game of the second, Safarova double faulted twice and the hit match point long.

"I served great," said Williams, who is celebrating her 200th week as the world No. 1 and who is coming off a win last week at Stanford. "I needed to serve great because she was hitting unbelievable serves to me."

Williams, who won last year in Toronto, is playing in Montreal for the first time since she retired with an injury in the final in 2000. For a second match in a row, the American delighted the crowd by doing her post-match interview at courtside in French.

The win set up a quarter-final on Friday between the two most impressive players in the tournament, Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, who routed American qualifier Shelby Rogers 6-1, 6-0.

Wozniacki, the 11th seed from Denmark who coming off a victory in Istanbul, has dropped only six games in three matches en route to the quarter-finals.

"It will be a great match," said Williams, who is 6-1 against Wozniacki. "She's playing great tennis.

"She's really focused. It will be a good match to see where I am."

Rogers caused the shock of the tournament when she ousted local favourite Eugenie Bouchard in the second round on Tuesday night. But the 113th-ranked American was no match for former world No. 1 Wozniacki.

"I felt really comfortable and confident," Wozniacki said. "I served and returned well.

"She's a tough player. She has some big shots. I was just able to neutralize them and play my game."

Carla Suarez Navarro upset fourth-seeded Sharapova 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in a match delayed twice by rain.

And second seed Kvitova is out after a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 loss to Ekaterina Makarova in a battle of left-handers.

Suarez Navarro, ranked 16th in the world, returned from the second delay to break Sharapova's service and then staved off a break point in the next game thanks to a lucky net cord. She broke again in the final game.

Sharapova said playing on centre court, which has more space on the sides and behind the baseline than a regular court, may have helped her Spanish opponent.

"I think that favoured her quite well as she was able to step so far behind the baseline and retrieve a lot of balls," said Sharapova.

Sharapova, just getting started on the hardcourt season, had struggled to a three-set win in her opening match Wednesday against Garbine Muguruza. She said she has much to work on in her game heading toward the U.S. Open at the end of August.

"I couldn't find my rhythm from the beginning of the match," said the 27-year-old. "I always had my back against the wall, always had to come back."

She said the rain, which sprinkled just enough to cause roughly 30-minute delays, was not a factor.

The 25-year-old Suarez Navarro won her first WTA tournament this year at the Portugal Open in May.

She will face the winner of an evening match between Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber.

Makarova, ranked 19th in the world, has been hot of late, reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and then going to the semifinals last week in Washington. She will play the winner between Jalena Jankovic and qualifier Coco Vandeweghe.

"I didn't change anything," said Makarova, who is being handled by her mother while her regular coach is on holiday. "I just had a couple of days of holiday (after Wimbledon) and started working again. Maybe I'm just really well prepared for this American tour."

Kvitova said she and Bouchard, who she beat in the Wimbledon final, may both have struggled to get back into normal competition. Kvitova felt she had no legs on court, while Bouchard was equally listless in her loss to Rogers, although the pressure of expectations from her hometown crowd was also a factor.

"After the big success of a final at Wimbledon, it's never easy," said Kvitova, who also won at the All England Club in 2011. "For her, it's a new situation.

"I honestly know what I'm talking about. I really feel for her. I know how she's feeling. But I think it's something you never learn from, you just have to live with it. I think she will come back stronger."

Later Thursday, American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe upset seventh seed Jelena Jonkovic 7-6 (8), 2-6, 7-5. Vandeweghe will face Makarova in the quarter-final.

In the late matches, Victoria Azarenka downed Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4, Venus Williams got past Angelique Kerber 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, and Agnieszka Radwanska beat Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

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