The Cincinnati Open claimed two more high-profile victims on Thursday with Grand Slam champions Li Na and Petra Kvitova crashing out, while Russian pair Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva crunched their opponents en route to the quarter-finals.
A day after world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, star attraction Serena Williams and third-seed Victoria Azarenka exited the tournament in defeat or through injury, French Open winner Li tumbled with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 loss to Samantha Stosur.
Li, China’s first Grand Slam singles winner, was also beaten last week in Toronto by the Australian, who will meet Sharapova in the last eight.
Stosur is hitting a good run of form in the run-up to the US Open, where she reached the quarter-finals last year.
Wimbledon champion Kvitova fell to emerging German talent Andrea Petkovic, ranked 11th in the world, who enjoyed a 6-3, 6-3 win in front of a smattering of fans on an outside court.
At the same time, on center court, Sharapova was making quick work of compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
World No. 2 Zvonareva crunched Croatian qualifier Petra Martic 6-2, 6-2 and will face Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, who beat France’s eighth-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Another Russian, Nadia Petrova, enjoyed a 6-3, 6-3 victory over American teenager Christine McHale, who upset top seed Wozniacki in the second round.
Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic twice failed to serve for the match, but finally prevailed over Italy’s Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
Jankovic looked in charge in the second set, but allowed the Italian back into the encounter and yet the Serb recovered to go 5-1 up in the third, only for her focus to slip again.
Jankovic will face China’s Peng Shuai, who beat Israeli Shahar Peer in straight sets.
REUTERS, MASON, OHIO
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal scraped into the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Open after beating fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (11/9) in a fierce battle, but his rivals all had comfortable paths into the last eight.
Seven of the top eight seeds have reached the quarter-finals with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and rivals Roger Federer and Andy Murray having little trouble.
The all-Spanish contest though was a grueling grind in the mid-day heat that lasted three hours, 38 minutes and was decided by a mistake-filled third tiebreak.
It was just the fifth time in 635 matches that Nadal has played in a three tiebreak game, but he has won on all five occasions.
Nadal, who gave up three match points in the decisive tiebreak, stuck with the task to finish off a determined Verdasco despite never finding his rhythm.
While it was as close as could be, the game lacked the expected quality as Nadal made 41 unforced errors and Verdasco 59, while the world No. 2 managed only 24 winners.
Nadal will face Mardy Fish in the quarter-finals after the American beat France’s Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5 .
World No. 1 Djokovic took his season record to 55-1 with a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 win over Czech Radek Stepanek.
Djokovic showed some signs of weariness and conceded that it was a game he needed to push himself through.
Britain’s Andy Murray had a relatively comfortable 6-2, 7-5 win over American qualifier Alex Bogomolov.
The win gave Murray revenge for his poor defeat to Bogomolov in Miami earlier this year.