MARBELLA, Spain -- Hot Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova were a pair of quarterfinal winners Friday at the $220,000 Andalucia Tennis Experience.
The top-seeded Azarenka, fresh off her big title in Miami last week, was leading former world No. 1 Dinara Safina 5-1 in the first set when the Russian retired with a lower back injury. The currently 81st-ranked three-time major runner-up Safina, a wild card this week, had been playing better tennis of late after struggling over the last year-and-a-half due to injuries.
"I feel bad winning in this way, above all against an opponent like Dinara," Azarenka said. "She has been suffering with her injuries for quite a while and I hope she recovers soon."
Azarenka, who whipped former top-ranked star Maria Sharapova of Russia in last week's title tilt in Miami, has won nine straight and 12 of her last 13 matches.
The world No. 6 Azarenka will face eighth-seeded Italian Sara Errani in Saturday's semifinals on the red clay at Puente Romano Tennis Club.
The second-seeded former top-five star Kuznetsova, meanwhile, blew past Spanish qualifier Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 6-1, 6-2 on Day 5 here. The sturdy Russian will meet little-known Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in the final four.
In Friday's other quarterfinal action, Errani erased fourth-seeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2, 6-2 and the qualifier Begu bounced sixth-seeded Czech Klara Zakopalova 6-3, 6-3.
This week's winner will claim $37,000.