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Safina closes in on No. 1 rank

TOP seed Dinara Safina took a step closer to becoming world No. 1 on Tuesday when she beat American Jill Craybas 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.

The Russian again struggled for top form but saw Craybas in two tight sets to advance to a quarterfinal against eighth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Ana Ivanovic scrambled past 12th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, while Vera Zvonareva (seeded four) and Caroline Wozniacki (nine) will meet in another quarterfinal.

Craybas had upset Serbian Jelena Dokic and 16th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain on her way to the fourth round and showed plenty of spirit against Safina.

The Russian, who will replace Serena Williams at the top of the rankings if she reaches the final, let slip an early lead but broke in the 11th game and served out for the opening set.

In the second, Craybas recovered an early break to level at 4-4, but Safina broke in the next game and then held her nerve to take her place in the last eight.

Safina said she would need to play well to get the better of Azarenka, who edged Israeli Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-4.

"We played three times last year and I won three times (but) she's playing her best tennis," the top seed said.

"I think she's playing great. I really want to play against her, to show my best. We'll see who's going to end up stronger tomorrow."

Zvonareva continued her smooth progress with a 6-4, 6-4 win over China's Li Na.

Ninth seed Wozniacki overcame Urszula Radwanska of Poland 7-5, 6-3 to set up the clash with Zvonareva, who has not dropped a set during the tournament.

In the men's event, Novak Djokovic maintained his title defense by handling Tommy Haas of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (1) to ease into the fourth round.

Haas had reached the quarterfinals for the last two years but third-seeded Djokovic did enough in the second set to stay on top and swept the last seven points of the tiebreaker.

The Serb is on course for a repeat semifinal with top-seeded Rafael Nadal, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Russian Dmitry Tursunov.

Later, Andy Roddick of the United States beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 7-6(4) in their night match.


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