Top seed Novak Djokovic overcame a second set blip to beat Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-5 2-6 6-2 and reach the quarter-finals of the China Open on Thursday, keeping alive his hopes of clinging on to his world number one ranking.
The defending champion, aiming for his fourth China Open title in five years after missing the 2011 tournament through injury, will lose the top spot next week if Spaniard Rafa Nadal reaches the final in Beijing.
In the quarters the Serb will face American Sam Querrey, who caused an upset by defeating sixth-seed Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 7-6(2).
While much is being made of the No.1 battle the 26-year-old six-times grand slam champion insists winning, rather than ranking points, is his sole focus when he takes to the court. “I try to do what I need to do, and that is to win the matches,” he said.
The Serb wasted an early break of serve in the first set and had to wait for the final game to break Verdasco again and seal the opener. Using his forehand to great effect Verdasco fought back, breaking Djokovic’s serve twice in the second set to take the Serb into a centre court decider.
Reigning Australian Open champion Djokovic, without a title since the Monte Carlo Masters in April, quickly re-established his superiority to snuff out any chance of a shock.
World number one Serena Williams saved three set points on her way to edging Russian Maria Kirilenko 7-5 7-5 on Thursday to advance to the quarter-finals of the China Open with her 70th win of the season.
The top-seeded American had won all seven of her previous encounters against the 18th-ranked Kirilenko but was forced to dig deep on many occasions to ensure her eighth victory over the Russian would be completed in straight sets.
Kirilenko secured the first break of the match in the ninth game and had three set points on her serve in the next but Williams rallied to break back before sealing the set after her opponent double faulted.