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Big guns advance

MIAMI, March 31 – On a difficult Monday for stars, top seeds Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, Britain's Andy Murray and Wimbledon champion Venus Williams advanced at the ATP and WTA hardcourt tournament here.

VENUSWorld number one Nadal, the Australian Open champion, was unhappy with his performance but reached the fourth round by defeating Portugal’s Frederico Gil 7-5, 6-3. Nadal will next face Swiss 16th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.

"No opponent is easy, especially if you’re not playing your best tennis. That’s what was happening," Nadal said. "I didn’t play very well. I had chances to lose the first set. I didn’t feel very well on court.

"I always want to win. My motivation is full in every match. But you can’t play well every day and today was one of those days."

Women’s number one Serena Williams, the reigning US and Australian Open champion, was often unfocused but outlasted China’s 17th-seeded Zheng Jie 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.

"I don’t think I played great," Williams said. "She played probably her best tennis yet. I started out great and then maybe lost my focus. Next thing I know, I was 5-all in the first set, which should have never been.

"Just happy to get through it because at one point I hit a ball in the bottom of the net and thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t done this since I was a junior.’"

Williams, who needs to reach the final to keep her top ranking, won the last three games to keep her quest alive.

"I just felt like if I didn’t straighten up I was going to lose," Williams said. "At that point, I was ready to get the match over. I didn’t want to lose and I knew I had to do what I needed to do to at least play a little better."

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As far as the top ranking goes, Serena feels like she has staked her claim as the world’s best by winning the past two Slams and losing to her sister in the finals last year at Wimbledon.

"It seems like I’ll be remembered more for how many Grand Slams I’ll win," she said. "But number one is also equally as important. If I make it, I make it. If not, oh well.

"Whether I end up number one at the end of this week or not, I think people obviously see me as number one. The respect is there. I’ve been working hard for several years now and being super consistent and I think it’s paying off."

US fifth seed Venus Williams ousted Polish 10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final eight, but like her sister was not happy with her performance.

"Every now and then everybody has those kinds of matches," Williams said. "I was hitting really well in the practice. Came out and things weren’t going to the way I imagined they would, but that’s tennis.

"I just had a lot of errors. Errors, errors. It seemed like when I had the winner it became an error. On days like that, you just kind of have to let the errors go behind you and continue to play aggressively and not pull back."

One more win by Venus and Serena will book an all-Williams semi-final. Venus will face Czech Iveta Benesova while Serena must face her third Chinese foe in a row after Li Na ousted Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-2.

Fourth-ranked Murray advanced to the last 16 by defeating Chile’s Nicolas Massu 6-4, 6-4. Next for the Scotsman will be 41st-ranked Serbian Viktor Troicki.

"The end and the start weren’t particularly good, but the middle part was very good," Murray said. "I’m obviously happy I managed to close the match out in two sets. I lost my concentration towards the end. I just have to make sure that slip in concentration doesn’t happen again."

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Australian Samantha Stosur, ranked 42nd, continued her strong run into the quarter-finals by ousting French 20th seed Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-4.

Stosur, who eliminated Russian world number two Dinara Safina in the third round, will next meet 11th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who defeated Hungarian 25th seed Agnes Szavay 6-2, 6-4.

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