Sports

Kirilenko handles some Peer pressure

Sharapova, Azarenka also advance in Bank of the West Classic

TV schedule for weekend: Friday, 8 p.m. (live), ESPN2; Saturday, noon (live) and 9:30 p.m. (tape delayed), ESPN2; Sunday, noon (live), ESPN2

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Maria Kirilenko continues her drive to become a prime-time player. It may not be too long before she becomes another in a long line of successful Russian players.

One of the reasons she seems on the verge of breaking into the elite -- she has been ranked in the top 20 briefly in 2006 and 2008 -- is her learning curve.

The 27th-ranked Kirilenko sent sixth-seeded Shahar Peer home with a straight forward, 6-4, 6-3, victory on Thursday at the Bank of the West Classic. That assures her of her best finish in three appearances at Stanford.

"I played her earlier in the season and lost in three sets," Kirilenko said. "This time I decided to be a lot more aggressive. I played not too bad. I can play better."

The 16th-ranked Peer became the first seeded player to fall at the event, losing for the fourth time in her last six matches after opening the year 18-5, which included a three-set win over Kirilenko in New Zealand.

After suffering through a knee injury that plagued her for much of last year,

Kirilenko has gotten her game back.

In addition to her best finish at the Bank of the West Classic, she's already played further into the Australian Open (quarterfinals), the French Open (fourth round) and Wimbledon (third round) this year than ever before.

She's won five career singles titles, but none since Estoril in 2008. In 2009, she reached the championship in Barcelona and the semifinals in Seoul. These days she's showing signs of going the distance.

Defending champion Marion Bartoli, the fourth seed, also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.

It was Bartoli's eighth consecutive victory at the Bank of the West and her first win over Ivanovic in four career meetings.

"I got broke in the first set when I was up 30-0 and that was bit of a shame but I came back strong," Bartoli said. "It was a great match and a good build up for the U.S. Open."

Ivanovic, who has slipped to No. 63 in the world, thinks all it's going to take is trusting in her shots.

"Confidence is doubt, doubt that you can make the shots you normally make or if you can stay in a rally long enough," she said. "I think it's just a few points here and there. If I can turn those points in my favor things will turn around."

No. 5 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 8 Victoria Azarenka did make it to the quarterfinals. Sharapova beat Olga Govortsova, 6-3, 6-3, and Azarenka topped Melanie Oudin, 6-3, 6-1.

"It was a sloppy first game but the rest of it was fine," Sharapova said. "I took my chances when I could."

Sharapova and second seeded Elena Dementieva meet in Friday night's featured match at 8 p.m. (ESPN2). It will be their 12th meeting.

"She got the best of me last time," Sharapova said. "I will take this as a new match. She's a great player and she does things well. She doesn't have that many weaknesses. I have to be patient."

Dementieva said she will have to deal with Sharapova's devastating serve.

"It looks like she has the rhythm of her serve and that's probably her strength," said Dementieva. "She's a hard hitter and it's never easy to play her."

Kirilenko meets No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday's quarterfinals.

Azarenka, who broke into the Top 10 last year, reached her sixth quarterfinal of the year by winning for the eighth time in her past 10 matches.

"I think I played very well," Azarenka said. "It was a little tough at the beginning with a couple of service breaks but I felt strong the whole match. For me it's important to play every point the same, no matter what the score is. Whether I am up or down 40-love, that is always a key for me."

She plays the winner of a late match between defending champion Marion Bartoli and former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic.

Oudin also thought she competed well.

"I had a game point almost every single game," she said. "I don't think she overwhelmed me. It was close."

The full draw can be found at the Bank of the West Classic website.

Bank of the West Classic

Friday's schedule

Stadium

Maria Kirilenko vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, noon

Marion Bartoli vs. Victoria Azarenka, 2 p.m.

Samantha Stosur vs. Yanina Wickmayer, to follow

Maria Sharapova vs. Elena Dementieva, 8 p.m.

Craybas-Gullickson vs. Chan-Zheng, to follow

Court 11

(U.S. Open National Playoff)

Alina Jidkova vs. Kaitlyn Christian, 11 a.m.

Brittany Augustine vs. Evangeline Repic, to follow

Courtney Dolehide vs. Jessica Pegula, 1 p.m.

Maureen Diaz vs. Alexandra Mueller, to follow

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