Li Na of China gestures toward the crowd in a game against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during their round four women's singles match on the seventh day of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Sunday. Li advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Azarenka. [Photo/Agencies]
Chinese star now only three wins away from nation's first major singles title
MELBOURNE - China's Li Na beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals and take a big step toward her country's first Grand Slam singles title.
Li, a semifinalist last year along with Zheng Jie, making them the first Chinese to reach a major's last four, extended her winning streak to nine matches after her victory at this month's Sydney International.
Li, the world No 11, said winning a Grand Slam was her tennis "dream".
"This is a dream for me. I mean, until now I'm still just following the dream," she said. "Like last year, I need two more steps. So hopefully this year I can do better."
Li cruised through the first set on the back of some wonderful passing shots on both side lines, but had to fight off a sustained challenge from Azarenka early in the second.
The eighth-seeded Belarusian had break points in the fourth game, but Li held after a struggle and then broke Azarenka before holding to love for a 4-2 lead.
Azarenka, who made her third fourth-round exit here in as many years, produced an untimely double-fault to offer up match point, and then netted to hand victory to Li.
After the win, Li paid credit to her husband and coach, Jiang Shan.
"I am a better person this year, not just a better player," she said. "He is my coach. I think we are going well."
Li, who hit 27 winners to Azarenka's 12, joked that the best motivation from her husband was financial.
"The credit card," she said, to laughs from the crowd. "Any time I play well, I can buy anything I want."
Last year Li also reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second time in her career, before being ousted by Serena Williams. In 2009 she made it to the US Open quarters where she was beaten by Clijsters.
She will play either 33rd-ranked German Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinals. Li said Shan would scout out her match later.
"This is my husband's job," she joked. "I just lie down in bed and watch TV."
Zheng, who teamed with Yan Zi to win the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon women's doubles - China's first Grand Slam titles - is out injured.