French Open: Victoria Azarenka to play Maria Kirilenko in the last eight after the pair progress

The number of former champions left in the French Open women's draw is down to three

The number of former champions left in the French Open women's draw is down to three after third seed Victoria Azarenka beat Francesca Schiavone to reach the quarter-finals.

Schiavone was a surprise champion in 2010 and then made the final again a year later, losing to China's Li Na.

But her rather old school style of tennis, using spins and slices to pull her opponent around the court, was no match for Azarenka's power, speed and consistency, and the Australian Open champion triumphed 6-3 6-0.

It was a good contest for six games but once Azarenka got her nose in front there was no stopping her.

The third seed has never previously been beyond the quarter-finals at Roland Garros but will be a hot favourite to reach at least the semis here with either Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Maria Kirilenko next up.

Schiavone's defeat leaves defending champion Maria Sharapova in the bottom half of the draw while former winners Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova meet in the last eight in the top half.

Sharapova was uncomfortable on clay for a long time but has improved so much that she won the title last year, and Azarenka believes she is on the right track.

She said: "I think I'm learning more now and I'm adjusting much better. There's no doubt it's been always the most challenging (surface) for me, but I feel like I'm finally understanding what I need to do to improve.

"I feel it's a process, but I'm on the right way. That's the most important for me, to it take step by step. I hope I'm playing better than before because otherwise that would be a step back.

"But I'm happy with the way my progress is going and we'll see what happens next."

Kirilenko will take on Azarenka in the last eight after ending the run of Mattek-Sands with a 7-5 6-4 victory.

The American made the last 16 for the first time at Roland Garros, knocking out former champion Li Na in round two, but will go no further.

Mattek-Sands called for the doctor in the first set after complaining of feeling unwell, while 12th seed Kirilenko also took a medical time-out for treatment to her right shoulder in the second set but came through.

The Russian has reached the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time and will look for a third win from six meetings with Azarenka.

PA

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