MELBOURNE: A rampant Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka stayed on collision course at the Australian Open Monday, as Andy Murray put an exhausted Gilles Simon out of his misery.
As Novak Djokovic regrouped after a late-night thriller against Stanislas Wawrinka, Williams ran over a stunned Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0 as she powered towards her third straight Grand Slam title.
Azarenka, Williams' potential opponent in the semis, dominated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1, and forgotten Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova announced her return by ousting ex-world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
While Djokovic battled to recover from his five-hour, five-set win which concluded in the early hours of Monday, Simon was still struggling from his marathon victory over Gael Monfils a day earlier.
The Frenchman, who could hardly walk after wrapping up the five-setter post-midnight, was in no state to face US Open champion Murray, and he quickly went down 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, calling it "a painful hour-and-a-half."
"Yesterday I was just biking 20 minutes, you know, stretching, massage, cold bath. I did everything I could," said Simon. "But it's difficult when you run a marathon two days before to go for one more two days after."
Murray called it a "tough situation" but he admitted his mind was already on his next match, a quarter-final with France's world number 36 Jeremy Chardy.
"I felt after the first few games, because he wasn't serving hard at all, you know, his forehand side wasn't moving that well either," said Murray.
"It was just about trying to finish the match as quickly as I could and then getting ready for the next one."
Chardy, who comes from the same coaching stable as Williams, reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a straight-sets defeat of Italian Andreas Seppi. He had never previously gone past the second round in Melbourne.
"I always play bad in Australia," Chardy said. "But this time, I play good. I am feeling very good on the court. It was a very difficult match in the beginning and I was tired, but it was the fourth round in a Grand Slam so I had to be strong in my head."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, buoyed by a new partnership with Australian coach Roger Rasheed, beat Richard Gasquet in four sets as a tournament record-equalling four Frenchmen in the fourth round was reduced to two in the quarter-finals.
Williams dispatched Kirilenko in less than an hour to set up a last-eight clash with fellow American Sloane Stephens, 19, who is considered by some as her heir and who beat Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.
"I haven't beaten Serena and I hope I'll give you all a good show," said the confident teenager.
Russian veteran Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner, missed much of last season with injury but she said the break had done her good as she returned re-motivated, and beat Wozniacki in three sets.
She said: "After 10 years of travelling I was getting tired. But I'm feeling fresh again and very happy to be in the quarter-finals because I struggled last year."
In Wednesday's quarter-finals, Kuznetsova will meet last year's champion Azarenka, who dismantled another Russian, the unseeded Vesnina, for the loss of just two games.
Roger Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam champion, was playing Canada's Milos Raonic with the winner going into a quarter-final against Tsonga.