CINCINNATI Aug 15 (Reuters) - As the tennis world buzzed over Marion Bartoli's shock decision to retire, Victoria Azarenka tried to put the focus back on court with a win over Magdalena Rybarikova at the Western and Southern Open on Thursday.
A routine 6-3 6-4 third round victory by the world number two, however, could not turn the conversation away from Bartoli, the Wimbledon champion having stunned the sport 12 hours earlier by announcing she was quitting following a second-round defeat.
"I actually saw that on Twitter and I was like, yeah, that's some crap," Azarenka told reporters. "I think everybody's a little bit surprised about that.
"I think it's very brave to do that. I think she was chasing her dream for such a long time. When she got it, it felt good. So whatever makes her happy.
"There's no doubt it's been surprising for everybody."
There was nothing surprising about Azarenka's third round match as she moved easily into the quarter-finals, despite problems with her serve during an uneven match that featured 13 breaks.
Rybarikova tried to create some drama when the Slovakian grabbed an early break and a 2-0 lead but the Australian Open champion stormed back, sweeping the next five games to easily take the opening set.
The second set opened with both players staying on serve before Azarenka nosed in front 2-1 but would end with seven consecutive breaks and the Belarusian again on top.
"Today there was sometimes a little bit of trouble serving but overall I felt better than I did in my first match," said Azarenka. "I was much more controlling the game. It was really up to me today, I felt.
"I was doing everything I wanted to do but I still feel there can be a lot more improvement."
Li Na's Cincinnati title defence also picked up steam as the fifth-seeded Chinese rolled to a 6-4 6-4 win over ninth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany while Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska swept past Russian Elena Vesnina 6-0 6-2.
In other third round action, Italian doubles partners Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci went toe-to-toe for a spot in the final eight with the 12th seeded Vinci coming out on top, beating her sixth seeded team mate 6-4 6-3.
American Sloane Stephens, second round conqueror of world number three Maria Sharapova, was thinking upset again after taking the opening set against 14th seeded Jelena Jankovic until the Serb rallied to claim a 3-6 7-5 7-5 win. (Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)