Dubai The withdrawal of world number one and top seed Victoria Azarenka overshadowed the third day's play here, even as four seeds booked their places in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open Wednesday.
Eighth seed Jelena Jankovic booked her place in the last eight and a potential clash with Australian Samantha Stosur today, while fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska earned the right to meet ninth seed Sabine Lisicki.
Jankovic was clinical in her 6-4, 6-2 win over Flavia Pennetta and Stosur overcame some anxious moments before getting past Lucie Safarova 6-1, 6-7, 6-1 in over two hours on centre court. Radwanska did just enough for a 7-5, 6-4 win over Shahar Peer and Lisicki sent qualifier Ievta Benesova packing 6-3, 6-3.
Meanwhile, former world number one Ana Ivanovic continued where she left off against Francesca Schiavone with a 6-2, 7-6 (4) win over the last of three Russians in the draw, Maria Kirilenko.
But the news that Azarenka was pulling out of the tournament became the talking point at the venue. The Belarusian player — crowned the world number one following her first Grand Slam win in Australia last month — had survived an injury scare during last week's Doha Open final that she won in straight sets against Stosur.
Not taking chances
However, after much deliberation, Azarenka felt that she shouldn't take a chance by competing again so soon here. "I played with a lot of pain-killers last week and my physio told me that I should take a break immediately after Doha. I did not then, but now I feel I should not compromise my long-term health," she told media.
The top seed was scheduled to play her second round match against Julia Goerges of Germany at 7pm yesterday, but the re-jigged draw instead pitted the German against second lucky loser Casey Dellacqua of Australia.
Li Na had been the first seed to pull out here last week and she was followed by world number two and second seed Petra Kvitova on Monday.
But there was no such pain for former finalist Jankovic as the Serb held her nerve to become the first quarter-finalist with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Italy's Pennetta.
After overcoming early jitters, Jankovic made her move in the seventh game to break for the first time and then held to love for a 5-3 lead against the world number 28 and last year's Dubai semi-finalist.
In the second set, Jankovic broke in the first and third to lead 3-0, only to see Pennetta break her for the first time in the fourth (1-3) and then hold to trail 2-3.
Jelena Jankovic bt Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-2
Samanth Stosur bt Lucie Safarova 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-1
Agnieszka Radwanska bt Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-4
Ana Ivanovic bt Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 7-6 (4)
Sabine Lisicki bt Iveta Benesova 6-3, 6-3
Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond bt Anabel Medina Garrigues/Alicja Rosolska 6-3, 6-3
Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears bt Flavia Pennetta/Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 7-6, 1-0