INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA // Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed, finally found a way to beat Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez with a ruthless 6-1, 6-3 demolition in the third-round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Wozniacki, who had lost to the left-handed doubles specialist in their three previous meetings, broke her Spanish opponent twice in the second set to seal victory in 72 minutes.
Under a cloudless blue sky, the Danish world No 1 dominated most of the exchanges from the baseline and needed just one match point to advance to the next round after a Martinez Sanchez forehand sailed long.
"I'm happy to be through," a beaming Wozniacki said after ending the 28th-ranked Spaniard's run. "She's a tough player, so I knew that this was not going to be an easy one.
"You don't get any rhythm against her. It was important to move my feet, try to get as many returns back, and it helped me a little bit that she didn't get too many first serves in so I could dictate the game."
Wozniacki, starting her 22nd week as world No 1 after losing it for one week to Kim Clijsters, broke Martinez Sanchez's serve twice to breeze through the opening set in 27 minutes in bright morning sunshine at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The Dane maintained control with further breaks in the fifth and ninth games of the second to stay on track for her second WTA title this year, following her success at last month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
"As long as I kept her on the baseline, then I felt like I was in control of the point," said Wozniacki, who lost to Jelena Jankovic in last year's final.
In other matches, the former champion Maria Sharapova of Russia, the 16th seed, overpowered the No 20 seed Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-2 and eighth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat Poland's Urszula Radwanska 7-6, 6-3.
Sharapova, who needed almost three hours on court to win her first match here against Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues, recovered from losing her opening service game to seal victory in 73 minutes.
"It started slow," said the 23-year-old Russian. "I started like I didn't have my cup of coffee or something ... so that was disappointing. But I got it together.
"When she's on, she can be one of the toughest players to play against. She had a lot of errors today. I had good return games, I returned a lot better, and served a lot better in the second set."
Sharapova will now meet a jubilant Dinara Safina who added another chapter to her on-court renaissance by upsetting fourth-seeded Samantha Stosur 7-6, 6-4.
The former world No 1 swept through the first set tiebreaker 7-2 and charged 4-2 up in the second before holding off a late fightback by the Australian.
"I am so excited and so happy," the Russian said courtside after thrusting both arms skywards in a mixture of relief and celebration. "The emotions are pouring out."
On the men's side of the draw, Rafael Nadal made light work of the American qualifier Ryan Sweeting 6-3, 6-1 in the third-round match.
Nadal improved to a win/loss record of 28-4 in his career at Indian Wells, where he has won twice. The world No 1 has lost six games in his first two matches while showing no lingering effects from his recent left thigh injury.
"I didn't play nothing really impressive, but I played solid. I didn't have big mistakes," he said. "The more positive thing is I finished much better than the beginning of the match. So improve during the match always very good news, no?"
There were also two upsets in the men's competition; Robin Söderling, the No 4 seed from Sweden, and the No 11 seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain both lost.
Söderling fell to No 32 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, 7-6, 6-4 after holding five set points in the tiebreaker, while the No 23 seed Albert Montanes took out his compatriot Almagro 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Söderling was bothered by a left foot injury that first occurred during Sweden's victory over Russia in Davis Cup play nearly 10 days ago.
"I lost the match when I decided to go on court," he said. "I shouldn't have done that. It's pretty stupid to play."
Söderling, who was in bed for five days with a fever before the tournament began, had yet to have his foot examined by a doctor. He is scheduled to play at Key Biscayne next week.
"Hopefully, they won't find anything bad," he said. "The more I play on the foot, the worse it gets."
American qualifier Donald Young's run ended with a 6-0, 6-4 loss to the No 25 seed Tommy Robredo of Spain. Young upset fifth-ranked Andy Murray two days ago.
Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 US Open champion, defeated the No 20 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6, 6-3.
Qualifier Somdev Devvarman of India outlasted Xavier Malisse 6-1, 3-6, 7-6.
Nadal delayed the start of his post-match interview to watch the tiebreaker since he will play Devvarman in the fourth-round.