MELBOURNE, Australia – Venus Williams advanced to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the seventh time to set up a meeting with Li Na, who helped make more Chinese history.
The sixth-seeded Williams beat Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 on Monday, recovering after dropping a set to the Italian for the first time since 2003.
Li upset No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2 in a 98-minute match featuring 12 service breaks. Li held when it counted, saving three break-point chances against the U.S. Open finalist in an 11-minute opening game. She also served it out on her second match point.
Li’s progress means there’s two Chinese players in the quarter-finals of the same major for the first time. Zheng Jie, the 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist, is into the quarters on the other half of the draw.
“Nothing better,” Li said, smiling, “Yeah, I mean good for us.”
In men’s fourth-round matches, 2008 champion Novak Djokovic beat Poland’s Lukasz Kubot 6-1, 6-2, 7-5. Kubot, who finished last season at No. 101, got a walkover into the second week when No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny withdrew from their third-round match with an injured wrist.
Li already has reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and went out at that stage in the last U.S. Open. She beat Williams in the quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympics in their only previous meeting, but she wasn’t drawing too much from that result here.
“It was good experience for me, for my tennis, also,” Li said. “But I just want to forget, because I will play her again. So I didn’t want always think about the last match. I want to look forward.”
Williams has won seven singles majors and reached the final of the Australian Open in ’03, losing to her younger sister Serena, in her best run at Melbourne Park.
The Williams are on track to meet in the semifinals here, with defending champion and No. 1-ranked Serena playing in a fourth-round match later Monday against Australia’s Sam Stosur. Serena has won four of her 11 Grand Slam singles titles in Australia.
Venus struggled to hold serve in the first set against Schiavone but was in command by the end, when she won the last six games after the 29-year-old broke her to open the third set.
“Francesca was playing so well, she was so tenacious, she has so much speed,” Williams said. “I had a little bit of a slow start.”
Williams’ win extended a streak in which at least one American woman has reached the Australian Open quarter-finals every year since 1977.
Four days after an angry outburst over the rules relating to replays and line calls, Andy Roddick got a crucial call in his favour in a fourth-round win over Fernando Gonzalez on Sunday night.
Roddick held off the 2007 Australian Open finalist 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarters for the sixth time in eight years. He’ll meet No. 14 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who ousted U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in five sets.
Roddick bucked the trend on a day of upsets that also resulted in fourth-round exits for two of the top women: No. 2 Dinara Safina, last year’s runner-up, and No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the reigning French Open champion.
“I got a little lucky, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said.
Also Sunday, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor won a pair of doubles matches.
Nestor and Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic won their men’s doubles third-round match 6-4, 6-2 over Philipp Marx of Germany and Igor Zelenay of Slovakia. Then Nestor teamed with Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova to win their opening mixed doubles contest in a walkover over Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and Jaroslav Levinsky of the Czech Republic.
Seventh-seeded Roddick rallied from 40-0 down in the 12th game of the fourth set to earn a fifth set point. Then he hit the contentious, dipping forehand.
The ball was called out and Gonzalez didn’t take a swing. Roddick challenged the call immediately, and the evidence showed that the ball just caught the line, giving Roddick the set to level at 2-all and igniting a protest from Gonzalez.
The Chilean argued that he could have had a play on the ball but chair umpire Enric Molina declined to replay the point.
The episode had a similar feel to the end of Roddick’s second-round win over Brazilian Thomasz Bellucci, when he angrily objected to a decision that went against him on a match point.
“I know he was pretty upset about the challenge and that rule no one seems to know about,” Roddick said of Gonzalez. “I can certainly sympathize with his frustrations.”
Gonzalez refused to blame one disputed call for turning the match.
“We played more than 200 points,” he said. “It was important, for sure, but it wasn’t the key of the match.”
Roddick said the knee problem that sidelined him at the end of last season was bothering him a bit, but it didn’t affect the game.
Safina had to retire because of the recurrence of a back injury when she was serving at 5-4 down and 30-40 against Maria Kirilenko, who had upset 2008 champion Maria Sharapova in the first round.
Kirilenko next plays Zheng, who advanced 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over Alona Bondarenko.
Kuznetsova lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to Nadia Petrova, who went into the match after a 6-0, 6-1 third-round victory over U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters.
Former No. 1 Justine Henin continued her run in her first Grand Slam tournament in two years with a 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3 win over fellow Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, keeping her on track for a quarter-final meeting with Petrova.
Defending champion Nadal advanced to a quarter-final against No. 5 Andy Murray by beating Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Murray beat American John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2.