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Kirilenko Cruises Into QFs, Niculescu Up Next

Maria Kirilenko beat Tamira Paszek at the China Open. She has now won 12 of her last 15 matches.

Published October 06, 2011 12:00

Kirilenko Cruises Into QFs, Niculescu Up Next
Maria Kirilenko

BEIJING, China - In a quarter of the draw with two of the last three Grand Slam champions, who would have picked Maria Kirilenko and Monica Niculescu to emerge? The Russian and the Romanian swept past talented third round foes to reach the quarterfinals of the prestigious $4.5-million China Open.

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Niculescu was the first to advance, winning an all-qualifier battle with Virginie Razzano, 46 61 62. Niculescu - who had beaten No.4 seed and French Open champion Li Na earlier in the week - lost a marathon 62-minute first set but came roaring back in the second and third sets, using her unique mix of paces and spins to roll past Razzano, a former Top 20 player on the comeback trail.

Niculescu moved into the quarterfinals of a WTA event for the sixth time in her career, with her first five all coming at the International level (Tashkent in 2008, Strasbourg and Tashkent in 2009, Tashkent again in 2010 and Estoril this year).

Kirilenko followed Niculescu into the quarterfinals four minutes later, completing a comprehensive 61 62 victory over Tamira Paszek. It was a particularly strong serving day for Kirilenko, who lost just 15 points in eight service games.

It has been a very strong last six weeks for Kirilenko - she has gone 12-3 in that stretch, reaching the fourth round of the US Open, the semifinals of Guangzhou, and now back-to-back quarterfinals at Tokyo and Beijing. It only makes sense she has picked up steam in Asia - she has won three of her five career WTA titles on this continent (here in 2005, Kolkata in 2007 and Seoul in 2008).

"I've had good wins the last couple of weeks," Kirilenko said. "My confidence has really grown and I'm playing a really good standard of game right now."

Kirilenko and Niculescu are tied in their head-to-head series, 1-1.

"Monica is a tricky player. She uses a lot of slice and has an unusual style," Kirilenko said. "I've played her a few times. Once I won against her easily and another time I lost. But I know what to do against this type of player."

Earlier in the day, No.13 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made the quarters when No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka withdrew due to a right foot injury.

"It's disappointing," Azarenka said. "I'm sorry to the fans. I was hoping my foot would be okay, but it has been bothering me since Tokyo. I'm not sure about recovery time but I will consult my doctor. I hope to be back for Luxembourg."

Azarenka's withdrawal leaves No.1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki as the only Top 10 player left in the draw - the 21-year-old Dane, who first rose to No.1 at this very tournament last year, played Kaia Kanepi in the night match.

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