Serena, Muguruza march on in Rome

Top contenders Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza are safely through to the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Third seed Muguruza continued to look in ominous form as she ended the challenge of fellow rising star Jelena Ostapenko with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Ostapenko looked impressive as she dispatched Kristina Mladenovic and Monica Puig in the first two rounds, but could not contend with Muguruza’s power and precision on the day.

While she came close to snatching an early break, Muguruza soon found her range and dominated the first set.

Ostapenko was stronger in the second, breaking early for a 3-1 lead, but Muguruza was able to find another level, rattling off five straight games to bring the match to an abrupt end.

Up next for the Spaniard is another highly talented young star, Timea Bacsinszky, who claimed a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 win over clay court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro.

Williams, meanwhile, was up against fellow American Christina McHale, easing into the last eight with a 7-6 (9-7) 6-1 victory.

It was a tale of two sets, with McHale proving to be competitive in the first but quickly relinquishing the second after Williams saved a set point and won the first-set tie-breaker.

McHale pushed Williams very hard at times, and the match was a great physical test for the World No 1.

“I feel good, because I feel like she hits a lot of balls back,” she said. “I wanted to get a match in like that where she gets a lot of balls back and see how I was able to do against that and see how I was physically after that, too.

“I think physically, you know, every day is a new day for me, and I just try to see when I wake up. I just go from there.”

Up next for Williams is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 winner over Daria Gavrilova, who had just knocked out Simona Halep in the second round.

“I think right now she’s probably one of the best clay-court players,” Williams said of Kuznetsova. “I couldn’t ask for a better match going into Roland Garros, so this is a perfect opportunity for me, win or lose, to see where I am and get ready for what I’m ready for, which is the main event.

“In my mind I’m always No. 1, and I think I have always thought that since I have turned pro. And in everyone else’s mind, even when I was injured they are like, You’re No. 1. I’m like, Yeah, sure. So everyone else thinks it.”

Others to reach the quarter-finals on Thursday included Irina-Camelia Begu, who saw off Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 6-4, and Japan’s Misaki Doi, who defeated Johanna Konta 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

American Madison Keys also advanced after beating Timea Babos 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.