Serena routs Sharapova, shrugs off blue clay boycott

Serena Williams routed Maria Sharapova to reach the Madrid Open semi-finals on Friday, but insisted she has no intention of joining Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in their blue clay boycott threat.

The American ninth seed cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 quarter-final win over second-seeded Sharapova, the recent Stuttgart champion, hitting 11 aces, 28 winners and enjoying five breaks of serve in 80 minutes.

Williams said that while the blue clay courts remain problematic, the issue was not enough to make her consider skipping the event in 2013 as Nadal and Djokovic have threatened to do.

"This is a tough surface and it's extremely slippery," said the 13-time Grand Slam-winner, who is unbeaten against Sharapova since 2005 and is riding a 10-match winning streak, her longest in a year.

"But Djokovic is still in the event and so is Roger (Federer), last time I checked. If I'm not here next year, it won't be because of the clay.

"I don't think there's been any improvement in the courts over the week, but every clay court is different. This is not the best court -- definitely not what they play like at Roland Garros.

"But it's what they use at Madrid. Maybe next year they'll put more clay on it. When it's hot, it gets more slippery. But that's an element you cannot control and it goes for every clay court."

Williams will face Lucie Hradecka for a place in the final after the Czech qualifier stunned Australian fifth seed Samantha Stosur, the US Open champion, 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (8/6).

Hradecka hit 19 aces in her upset triumph.

Top seed Victoria Azarenka saw off China's Li Na with a battling 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win to also reach the semi-finals.

The Belarusian world number one will now play Agnieszka Radwanska, the Polish fourth seed, who saw off American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4.

Azarenka, January's Australian Open champion, levelled her head-to-head record against French Open champion Li at 4-4 with the victory.

Eighth seed Li was playing in her second clay quarter-final after Stuttgart.

Azarenka said that after losing the opening set against Li, she still has no idea how she was able to turn the match around for victory in just under two hours.

"She played unbelievable in the first set," said the top seed.

"I knew I had to do something. I don't know if it was confidence or self-belief or what. I don't know what happened but I managed. I started to get into the match and build up my game."

The Belarusian said that despite the controversy over the blue courts, the subject is not worth discussing until the tournament is over.

"I see no reason to talk about the courts until after the event. These are the conditions we have to deal with," she said.

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