Li rewrites Chinese history in her journey to last eight
Tuesday 04 July 2006
Li Na and Séverine Brémond are the unexpected interlopers in the women's singles quarter-finals here today after making history for China and seeing off a favourite from Japan respectively.
Li, 24, reached the last eight the first Chinese player ever to do so in Grand Slam singles by upsetting the Czech 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Brémond, a 26-year-old qualifier from France, reached her first Slam singles quarter-final with a surprise 7-6, 6-3 win over Ai Sugiyama, the No 18 seed.
Li now faces Kim Clijsters, who made swift work of beating the Polish 17-year-old wild card Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-2, in 49 minutes. Brémond's next opponent is Justine Henin-Hardenne, who beat Daniela Hantuchova.
Li beat the French Open runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round and she recovered strongly after Vaidisova, who reached the last four at Roland Garros, took the first set.
Before yesterday's result, the best singles showing by a Chinese player was Zheng Jie's run to the French Open fourth round in 2004.
"I'm proud of myself and I'm very proud for my country." She added that it is too early to talk of a Chinese player winning a Slam singles. "I don't know when that will happen, but I think it takes time, gradually, step by step."
Tennis was not her first sport. Badminton was, between the age of six and eight, when she made the switch. She said yesterday that she would probably be more famous now if she had not swapped sports. "Probably I would be a champion, a world champion, if I played badminton."
Asked if she had ever dreamt of winning here, she replied: "I've had this kind of dream, but I have to drop it because the more you expect, probably in return you have more disappointment." At least nobody can accuse her of being overoptimistic.
Sugiyama, who defeated an expected quarter-finalist in the shape of Martina Hingis in the third round, was beaten on serve and from the baseline by Brémond. The Frenchwoman took a marathon first set tie-break 13-11 and broke early in the second set, eventually sealing the biggest win of her career when Sugiyama sent a forehand wide on match point.
"She was serving really fast and a good percentage of first serves," said Sugiyama, who was aiming to reach the last eight here for only the second time in 14 visits.
The other two quarters are as expected from day one. Amélie Mauresmo, the No 1 seed, will meet Anastasia Myskina, while Maria Sharapova will play Elena Dementieva. Mauresmo progressed by beating Serbia's Ana Ivanovic, while Myskina defeated Venus Williams' conqueror, Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova dropped her first set of the tournament in a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over Italy's Flavia Pennetta. "I just didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis. In the end, it all came down to how much I fought," said Sharapova, who took a lengthy toilet break after losing the second set. "It wasn't really about how good or bad I played, or how good she played, because she played extremely well. I just fought deep."
Sharapova took the first set tie-break 7-5, but the fourth seed was immediately 3-0 down in the second set and Pennetta soon levelled the match. The Italian netted a forehand to lose serve for 3-1 in the decider. Sharapova eventually winning with a backhand on her third match point to seal victory.
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