Venus, Li stride into Australian Open quarters
MELBOURNE: Venus Williams strode into the Australian Open quarter-finals Monday where she will meet Li Na who ensured China has two players in the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time.
They join Justine Henin, Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko and Zheng Jie safely through, with Williams bouncing back from a set down to oust Italian 17th seed Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
The hard-fought victory under blue skies on Rod Laver Arena keeps her on track for a semi-final with sister Serena, who takes on Australian hope and 13th seed Samantha Stosur later.
Li upset Danish fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 for her best-ever performance at the Australian Open, eclipsing her fourth round appearance in 2007.
In a match dominated by breaks of serve, Li was down a service break and 4-2 in the first set, but then rattled off the next six games to win the first set and be a break up in the second.
However, there were seven successive service breaks in the second set after Li held in the first game, until the Chinese star steadied and served out the match.
"I had my chances, especially in the first set leading all the time. Had my chance for 5 2 but I didn''t take it," said Wozniacki, a finalist at the US Open last year.
"It just didn''t go my way today."
Venus is in her 11th Australian Open campaign but is yet to win the singles crown, in stark contrast to Serena, who is a four-time champion and defending her title.
But the elder Williams is not beating herself up about her comparative lack of success in Melbourne, insisting a major part of her game plan was staying positive.
She said she could break her Australian drought this year.
"Yeah, I''m ready to go and I feel very good," said Williams, who has won five Wimbledons and two US Open titles.
"Obviously, I''m hitting the ball pretty good, especially against her today. She was really playing well."
Williams appeared almost disinterested during the 38-minute first set against Schiavone, but after taking a short "bathroom break" she came out a different player in the second.
Shots that were long and wide in the first set began to fall in, while Schiavone, who hardly missed in the first set, began to succumb to the pressure as Williams turned up the heat.
If Serena gets past the super-fit Stosur, she will line up against either Belarrussian seventh seed Victoria Azarenka or ninth seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva, who play a night match.
With Spanish defending champion Rafael Nadal, British fifth seed Andy Murray, American seventh seed Andy Roddick and 14th seeded Croat Marin Cilic safely in the last eight, Roger Federer will attempt to join them later Monday.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion has a marquee showdown against Australia''s Lleyton Hewitt, who has not beaten the Swiss great in their last 14 meetings.
Whoever wins will play in-form Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko or tenacious Spanish ninth seed Fernado Verdasco for a berth in the semi-finals.
In other fourth round matches Monday, 2008 champion Novak Djokovic faces little-known Pole Lukasz Kubot.
The final fourth round match features the man Djokovic beat in the 2008 final, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with the 10th French seed playing Spanish 26th seed Nicolas Almagro.