French Open champ Li moves into New Haven quarters

August 24, 2011 10:31 PM
NEW HAVEN, CT - AUGUST 24: Na Li of China celebrates match point against Maria Kirilenko of Russia during the New Haven Open at Yale.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) --  Li Na of China had to battle from behind in each set Wednesday to beat Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the second round of the New Haven Open, the final WTA tournament before the U.S. Open.

The French Open champion had trailed 3-1 in the first set and 4-1 in the second, before securing the straight-set win and a berth in the quarterfinals.

Li, the first Asian to win a Grand Slam event, has beaten Kirilenko four of the five times they have met. But, she said, the Russian, like most of her opponents since the French Open, seemed to be a bit more focused this time.

"Everyone thinks different,'' she said. "Before (it was), `Oh, OK, I beat her.' But now, if they win, `Oh, I beat a French Open champion.' They are even more excited.''

Li took the first set after breaking Kirilenko in the seventh game, which went to deuce four times. She also broke Kirilenko in the seventh game of the second set to get back on serve. She then won four straight points in the tiebreaker for a 6-2 cushion.

She will next face another Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The eighth seed also won in straight sets, beating Roberta Vinci of Italy, 6-2, 6-4 after jumping out to a 5-1 lead early.

"My game is to be aggressive,'' she said. "I was trying to move her. I'm also working on coming more to the net to finish points. I was playing consistent and being aggressive.''

Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues also moved into the quarterfinals, overcoming a knee injury to beat Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Garrigues, looking for her third tournament title this season, was in charge throughout the contest. But she failed to convert on three match points while up 6-5 and serving for the second set. Vesnina hit a passing shot to save the third match point, and Medina Garrigues sat on the court and grabbed her right knee.

After a brief medical delay, Vesnina broke serve to force the tiebreaker.

But Medina Garrigues said she was able to take advantage of a gusting wind, which was at her back at the end of the tiebreaker, and gut out the win. She said she might have retired from the match if she had lost the second set.

"I was thinking of that,'' she said. "But I was lucky. I won the tiebreaker and I won the match.''

Medina Garrigues, whose titles this season both came on clay, is scheduled to play Italy's Francesca Schiavone in the quarterfinals, but said she planned to have her knee examined Wednesday night.

Marion Bartoli of France also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win over Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.

The fourth-seeded Bartoli broke Zakopalova's serve three times in the first set, but was broken three times in the second. She regained her form, cruising in the final set.

"I lost to Klara the last two times we played each other. So, it was great for me. It was great for my confidence,'' Bartoli said. "I'm starting to play a little better than I did in Toronto and Cincinnati. Everything is starting to click together, and that's very good before the U.S. Open starts.

Bartoli will play Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska in the quarterfinals.