Serena Williams was one win away from becoming the oldest women’s world No. 1 after sweeping aside Urszula Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open.
If the 31-year-old Williams reached the semi-finals by beating seventh seed Petra Kvitova she would return to No. 1 for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Chris Evert held the top ranking in 1985 while just shy of her 31st birthday.
“It’s awesome,” Williams said.
“Since I didn’t do the youngest, I figure I’ll do the oldest,” she said.
If Williams failed to make the last four, then Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka could keep top spot by reaching the final. Third-ranked Maria Sharapova could pass both players if she wins the tournament, and Williams and Azarenka lost their next matches.
Williams, a 15-time Grand Slam winner, was joined in the last eight by Azarenka, former world No. 1s Caroline Wozniacki and Sharapova, plus 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska.
Azarenka extended her unbeaten run this year to 11 matches by thrashing Christine McHale of the US 6-0, 6-0, Wozniacki downed Mona Barthel of Germany 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, while Sharapova got past Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3. Stosur edged out Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-5 and Radwanska beat an error-prone Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-1, 7-6 (8/6).
On the back of her potent first serve, Williams broke Urszula Radwanska, the sister of Agnieszka, three times in the first set. The second set was tighter, but the American clinched the match when her opponent hit a return wide.
“It was very windy, but I felt good out there. It was very tough conditions,” said Williams, who hurt her ankle and back at the Australian Open.
Azarenka broke three times in each set on the back of her powerful forehand and dominant net play.
“I felt like I came out very focused and really with a good mindset, with a good game plan,” said Azarenka, who won 26 straight matches to begin last year.
Russian Sharapova is bidding to become the first player to win three times in Qatar — an honor that would be rewarded with a diamond-encrusted tennis ball.
“It’s one of those days where you almost know that you might not be playing your best tennis. I certainly didn’t today,” said Sharapova, who had 27 unforced errors and nine double faults against Zakopalova.
Agnieszka Radwanska made quick work of Ivanovic, the former world No. 1, in the first set, breaking four times amid windy conditions. Ivanovic did not help her own cause, committing 21 unforced errors and only landing 63 percent of first serves.
The wind also played havoc for Wozniacki and Barthel.
The first set swung back and forth, but the Dane took control in the second by breaking twice to lead 5-1.
“It wasn’t great tennis out there today, the wind was a huge factor,” Wozniacki said.