Serena Williams reaches semifinals

MADRID -- Serena Williams cruised past No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the semifinals along with top-ranked Victoria Azarenka. She rallied past French Open winner Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Williams opened strong, hitting six aces and earning two early breaks to take the first set.

Sharapova broke at love to even the score at 2-2 in the second set, but she quickly squandered her break with a costly sixth double fault to fall behind for good. Williams sealed her seventh straight win over Sharapova with an emphatic slam.

"Playing Maria, you have to be really ready because she does everything really well," Williams said. "I felt relaxed out there, and when I play relaxed, I play better."

Williams, who improved to 11-0 on clay this year, will face Czech Lucie Hradecka after she upset U.S. Open champion and fifth-seeded Samantha Stosur 7-6 (8), 7-6 (6).

Azarenka, who has won four titles this season, used her powerful groundstrokes to take a 4-0 lead in the second set before holding off Li's late charge.

Azarenka agreed with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in their criticism of the new surface.

"You feel unstable sometimes, actually, a lot of times," she said. "But right now, there is no point on talking about it. After the tournament, all the players can get together and discuss it."

The Belarusian will face Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat American Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4.