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Caroline Wozniacki edges closer to retaining world No 1 spot with routine win


Caroline Wozniacki again attempted to play down the significance of her number one ranking despite edging closer to retaining top spot with a routine win over Monica Niculescu at the Australian Open today.

The Dane, who is still seeking her first grand slam crown, has to reach at least the quarter-finals in Melbourne to stand any chance of staying ahead of the chasing pack and moved within one win of achieving that with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of 31st seed Niculescu.

Although Romanian Niculescu posed plenty of problems with her unorthodox game, which sees her hit double-handed groundstrokes on both sides as well as mixing it up with the occasional sliced forehand and foray to the net, Wozniacki always had the answers in what was arguably her most impressive performance of the tournament so far.

And she was eager to focus afterwards on on-court matters rather than dwell too long on how her progress would affect her standing.

"To be honest I just play," she said.

"I want to try to do my best here and whatever happens, happens.

"I have proven myself for the last two years. I have finished number one twice in a row.

"And for me the most important thing is to keep on improving. If I do that I know I can play on a very high level.

"If you win tournaments, then the ranking will be there automatically."

Wozniacki displayed a more attacking game today, matching Niculescu's frequent trips to the net and displaying a nice touch, especially on the backhand side.

She added: "I've worked quite a bit on my volleys.

"I still think I could have finished a few more points up there but I'm improving and I'm trying to move in when I can."

Victoria Azarenka, one of three players who could usurp Wozniacki from the top spot - Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova are the others, kept up the pressure with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Mona Barthel.

Although the result was never in doubt, the match ended on a controversial note when Azarenka issued a verbal volley to a linesperson after squandering four match points.

The third-seeded Belarusian revealed afterwards the outburst was a ploy to wind herself up to get over the line.

"I had to get a little bit angry to get my emotions going to finish the match, because I had a few chances and I didn't convert them," she said.

"Sometimes you just have to push yourself a little bit to get you going again.

"I am a very emotional player."

Next up for Azarenka is Czech Iveta Benesova, who thrashed Russian qualifier Nina Bratchikova 6-1 6-3, while Wozniacki meets Jelena Jankovic, a 6-2 6-0 victor over American Christine McHale.

Eighth seed Agnieszka Radwanska progressed with a 6-2 6-2 win against Galina Voskoboeva, as did 22nd seed Julia Goerges who beat Romina Oprandi 3-6 6-3 6-1.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters moved through to round four after beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-2.

After a patchy first set, the Belgian 11th seed raised her game to advance in 75 minutes.

"The second set was much better," she said.

"In the first I was definitely struggling to get a feel for it. It felt like a long break as well, I had a day off yesterday and a night match today so I had to find my aggressive footwork.

"But I was able to win the important points and when you aren't playing well it sometimes comes down to playing the important points well.

"The second set was much better and I am pleased I finished better than I started."