Nadal, Williams, Sharapova reach Madrid quarters

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MADRID (AP) -Rafael Nadal cruised into the Madrid Open quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mikhail Youzhny that featured an attractive array of shots on Thursday.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova also reached the quarters in straight sets.

Having already established control by stealing Youzhny's second service game, Nadal kept a point alive with a deft no-look backhand flick before nailing a winner down the line to hold his serve and delight his fans at the Caja Magica.

The fifth-ranked Spaniard then broke Youzhny again by dinking the ball over the net while on the run, giving it so much backspin it twisted away from the Russian.

Fittingly, Nadal polished off the third-round match by chasing down a ball and returning it cross-court.

Nadal, who is searching for his seventh straight final since returning from injury, improved to 28 wins and two losses on the year. He will next play either David Ferrer or Tommy Haas.

Also, Tomas Berdych defeated Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (5), 7-5, to make the final eight, while Pablo Andujar also advanced after fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver retired.

Second-seeded Roger Federer and third-seeded Andy Murray also have third-round matches later.

The top-seeded Williams dispatched Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-3, 6-1, after Sharapova put away Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-2, 7-5.

Despite slowing her usually blistering serves, Williams' dominant performance made Kirilenko wither after she dropped the first set with one of several unforced errors.

"I just felt really relaxed, like I was taking my time," said Williams, adding that she went for precision over speed on serve.

The defending champion battered Kirilenko with her strong return game, working the 12th-ranked Russian back and forth on the baseline of the red clay court with her precise forehand drives.

"I had been missing my serve when I was hitting it harder, so I took some pace off," Williams said. "It was easy because when you take off pace you don't hit as hard and don't exhaust as much energy. And hitting a serve or a winner are both fun."

Williams will next face local favorite Anabel Medina Garrigues, who reached the quarterfinals after Yaroslava Shvedova withdrew with a right arm injury.

The 15-time Grand Slam winner called Medina Garrigues a "grinder" and predicted a "tough match" in front of the Spanish crowd.

Sharapova used her big serve to take the first set with relative ease, but Lisicki put up stubborn resistance in the second.

Both players traded early breaks in the second set before Sharapova finally converted a fourth break point when Lisicki returned her well-placed slice into the net.

Sharapova didn't waste the opportunity to serve out the match, hitting an ace and forcing Lisicki into three errors in the final game.

"She is the kind of opponent who plays extremely well against the top players," said Sharapova, who lost to Lisicki last year at Wimbledon.

The Russian former No. 1 will face either Daniela Hantuchova or Kaia Kanepi next.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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