Venus Williams advanced to the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the seventh time to set up a meeting with China’s Li Na, who has never gone this far at the Australian Open.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles winner Williams had a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Francesca Schiavone on Monday, recovering after dropping a set to the Italian for the first time since 2003.
Li had a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 4-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, the U.S. Open finalist, in a 98-minute match featuring 12 service breaks. Li held when it counted, saving three break points in an 11-minute opening game and serving it in the last, on her second match point.
Along with 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, who is on the other half of the draw at Melbourne Park, it’s the first time two Chinese players have reached the quarterfinals at the same Grand Slam tournament.
Williams reached the final of the Australian Open in 2003, losing to her younger sister Serena, in her best run at season’s first major.
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.
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 Italian 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 extends a streak in which at least one American woman has reached the Australian Open quarterfinals every year since 1977.
Roddick bucks trend
On Sunday, 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 his fourth-round win over Fernando Gonzalez.
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.
After wasting four set points in the 10th game of the fourth set, seventh-seeded Roddick rallied from 40-0 down in the 12th — Gonzalez’ next service game — to earn a fifth set point. Then he hit the contentious, dipping crosscourt 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 two-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.
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.
While the seeded players dropped, 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 quarterfinal meeting with Petrova.
Defending champion Nadal and No. 5 Andy Murray held off two of the tallest men and biggest servers in tennis to set up a quarterfinal match up.
Nadal, who beat Roger Federer in the 2009 final, had a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, and Murray overcame 6-foot-9 American John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2.