Carson, California:Top-seeded Dinara Safina comfortably won through to the round of 16 at the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over experienced Slovakian Daniel Hantuchova on Wednesday.
Safina, who had a first-round bye, set up a clash with China's Zheng Jie after the 14th seed proved too strong for Russian Elena Vesnina 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
Safina's win guaranteed her enough points for a berth in the season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Qatar.
"It was a good match," Safina said. "I didn't do anything spectacular. We play the same way, so it depends on who's going to take charge of the points, and at the crucial times I was more aggressive."
Safina's chances of winning the Los Angeles title were further boosted by the elimination of two of her main rivals: third-seeded Victoria Azarenka was beaten 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 by Maria Sharapova, and fourth-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki fell 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Still in comeback mode after missing seven months because of a shoulder injury, Russian Sharapova worked hard over three sets to beat the Belarussian. Sharapova's third-round opponent will be Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko, who beat Czech Lucie Safarova 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
"I knew I was going to have to dig deep and try to find ways," Sharapova said. "I'm pretty happy with the way I was able to hang in with her and really step up when had to. That was the difference between us."
Sharapova's rebuilt serve was erratic, her four aces offset by a dozen double-faults, but she was much steadier with her groundstrokes than Azarenka.
"I'm not happy with my game at all. The execution wasn't there today," said Azarenka, who hadn't played since losing in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. "Maybe it was from not playing, but I have to work hard, for sure. Just too many mistakes."
Aside from Azarenka and Wozniacki, the other leading casualty on Wednesday was seventh-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who was beaten 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4 by Poland's Urszula Radwanska.
Urszula's sister Agnieszka, seeded eighth, also won through with a 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, while fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova won her first match after a first-round bye, overcoming Israel's Shahar Peer 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
Other seeded winners on Wednesday were Italy's Flavia Pennetta, China's Li Na, Australia's Sam Stosur and Sabine Lisicki of Germany.