MADRID, Spain -- Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova reached the quarterfinals at the Madrid Open on Thursday as the two top-ranked players both won in straight sets.
The top-seeded Williams needed a little more than an hour to see off Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-1, after Sharapova had dispatched Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-2, 7-5.
Despite taking something off 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 had decided to slow down her serve to gain in precision what she lost in speed.
The defending champion battered Kirilenko with her strong return game, working the 12th-ranked Russian back and forth on the baseline of the Caja Magica's 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 and didn't hit as hard as I usually do," 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 favourite 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.
Earlier, 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 to finish the third-round contest in 1 hour, 42 minutes.
"She is the kind of opponent that 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.
The Madrid Open is a key warm-up tournament for the French Open, where Sharapova will be trying to defend her title this month.
"(Last year) was an incredible memory for me and one that I will have the rest of my life," she said. "I'm still very hungry to win it. When I have that type of attitude I work harder to that goal. I find a lot of motivation at going back and trying to defend my title."
Williams beat Sharapova in the quarterfinals here last year en route to the title. This year they are on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning they could only meet in the final.
Also on Thursday, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have third-round matches in the men's event.