China`s Li notches hard-fought victory at Shenzhen
Beijing: Chinese superstar Li Na battled her way to yet another victory on Thursday, downing Romania`s Monica Niculescu after three action-filled sets in the women`s singles quarter-final of the Shenzhen Open.
Li, Asia`s highest-ranking player in tennis history, opened strongly, besting Niculescu 7-5 in the first set.
The 26-year-old Romanian fought back with a 6-4 win in the second set, before Li toppled her with a third-set, 6-4 victory.
Li, 31, is the defending Shenzhen Open champion and is also the world number three player.
Her success has sparked a new Chinese interest in tennis as well as a swell of national pride. China`s state broadcaster CCTV this week named her rise its number two sports story of 2013.
China notched another victory on Thursday as fifth-seed Peng Shuai soared to victory over Slovakia`s Jana Cepelova 6-3 6-2.
American Vania King bested Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2 6-4, while eight-seed Annika Beck of Germany came back from an initial 3-6 loss to triumph over Austria`s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in the final two sets, 6-3 6-1.
In the semi-final doubles, Niculescu and Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic had their second straight victory of the week, taking down China`s Wang Yafan and Zheng Jie 6-3 6-4.