Li battles back at French Open as Schiavone crumbles
Date published :
02 Jun 2012 - 16:17:03
Defending champion Li Na battled back to defeat America's Christina McHale 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and reach the French Open last 16 on Saturday, but 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone crashed out of the event and the world top 20.
The 30-year-old Li had to draw upon her 10-year age gap to prevail over the 36th-ranked American, who had fallen in the first round in 2010 and 2011.
"She's a very dangerous player. I was happy I could win the match today because I have more experience," said seventh-seeded Li, who will face Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova for a place in the quarter-finals.
Italian 14th seed Schiavone, who was runner-up to Li last year and the oldest woman left in the tournament, lost 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 to America's Varvara Lepchenko, the world number 63 who has now reached the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time.
The Uzbekistan-born left-hander gave another boost to American tennis which was sent reeling by the shock first round loss of Serena Williams and the more predictable second round exit of Venus Williams.
Lepchenko, who had defeated 19th seed Jelena Jankovic in the second round, squandered the opportunity to serve for the match against the 31-year-old Schiavone in the ninth game of the decider, but held her nerve in the 14th.
It was the 26-year-old's second successive win over the Italian veteran, having also won in three sets in the second round of the Madrid claycourt tournament in May.
"I was fighting till the end. She played amazing. It's her court. I knew that she's not gonna give it for free. I had to work really hard, and I did," said Lepchenko, who next tackles Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova struggled past Russia's world number 109 Nina Bratchikova 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to reach the last 16 for the third time.
The 22-year-old served up eight double faults and committed 37 unforced errors and was only saved by the fierce, flat hitting of her groundstrokes which often left the Portugal-based Bratchikova gasping.
"I started well, had a set already, and then I was very aggressive and I knew what I had to do," said Kvitova.
"In the second set I was still like, okay, if I play like the first set, it will be fine. But it wasn't. She played much better than the first set. She had a better serve, and it was tough to return," admitted Kvitova.
"She had pressure from the first shot that she played. I was running side to side and that's not my game. So I had to change and be aggressive and put her a little further back."
Also making the last 16 was Shvedova, a quarter-finalist in 2010, who eased past Spain's Carla Suarez-Navarro 6-4, 7-5.
Later Saturday, second seed Maria Sharapova, who needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, faces Chinese 28th seed Peng Shuai.
The winner will face Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova who put out Russian 22nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 7-5.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, the ninth seed, meets Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.