Li Na Beats Azarenka for Spot in Quarterfinals

Li Na, already China’s most successful player, reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

The win extended Li’s 2011 win streak to nine matches. Li hit 27 winners to Azarenka’s 12, including a series of passing shots from both wings to take the first set easily.

The second set was more challenging as Azarenka had break points in the fourth game. Li managed to hold serve, then broke. She held the next game at love to take a 4-2 lead. A double fault by Azarenka gave Li match point. Azerenka then netted her shot to give Li her win.

Li’s quarterfinals opponent will be either 2008 Australian Open winner Maria Sharapova or German Andrea Petkovic who is ranked 33rd. If she wins that round Li would reach the semifinals for the second year. In 2010 she and fellow Chinese Zheng Jie both reached the semis. Li then lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in two tiebreak sets.

Li credited her win over Azarenka to her husband and coach Shan Jiang.

“I am a better person this year, not just a better player,” Li said.

She also revealed that her husband used the credit card as a motivational tool.

“Anytime I play well, I can buy anything I want.”

Caroline Wozniacki moved into the Australian Open quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Anastasija Sevastova on Sunday and is just one victory from ensuring she’ll retain the top ranking.

The 20-year-old Dane, playing her first major as world No. 1, reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the first time. She can keep her top ranking with an appearance in the semis.

She wants more than that, though. She’s aiming for a first Grand Slam title.

Novak Djokovic earned his first major title by winning the 2008 Australian Open, but he hasn’t added to his Grand Slam collection since and is desperate to change that in Melbourne. He advanced to the quarterfinals for the 13th time in his last 15 majors with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 win over No. 14 Nicolas Almagro.

Making it difficult for Djokovic to win major No. 2 has been the long domination of No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer, the defending champion here.

The questions about Wozniacki’s worthiness of the top ranking are starting to diminish. Asked which player she feared most, she said: “I don’t fear anyone actually.”

“I’m feeling confident. I feel like I can beat anyone on a good day. I think they have to fear me when they’re playing me,” she said. “I just go out there and do my best. If they’re better than me that day, it’s just too good.”

Wozniacki dropped three of the first four games of the match before reeling off six in a row, including a break in the first game of the second set. Sevastova, ranked No. 46, rallied and the pair traded breaks until Wozniacki regained control.

Wozniacki now has reached the quarterfinals at all four majors, and she’s navigated some troublesome ground. According to the WTA, only one of the last five women to be ranked No. 1 went beyond the first round in the first major they played with the top ranking.

While Wozniacki says she’s not scared of any of her fellow players, she did confide that an up-close encounter with a baby kangaroo left her a little scarred.

She saw one of the native marsupials lying in the shade in a park way outside of the city and thought it needed help. She learned her lesson quickly when the wild creature scratched her. Note to Caroline: kangaroos don’t hop around all day.

“I just wanted to help it out. I found out that I shouldn’t do that,” she said. “It scratched me pretty well. That’s why I’m playing with this tape on my shin. It looked so cute. But once it started scratching me, I was a coward and I run away.”

Nadal kept his bid for a “Rafa Slam” on track and ended Australia’s last hope in the tournament, with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win over 18-year-old wild card Bernard Tomic in the third round.

He extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 24 matches, but said he’s not feeling in peak shape. He is feeling the lingering effects of an illness that slowed him at the start of the year, and is sweating and feeling more tired than usual during matches.

“I was perfect when I started the season. I was playing perfect and I was feeling perfect physically,” Nadal said. “In Doha, I had that problem. I wasn’t feel very well. Have fever and these things.

“Seems like after that my body is still not perfect.”

The last two Australians went out in consecutive night matches on Rod Laver Arena on a day that attracted a record crowd for the Australian Open — 77,121 across day and night sessions. French Open finalist Sam Stosur lost 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to No. 25 Petra Kvitova.

It hasn’t been a good tournament for Australia, which hasn’t produced a homegrown winner of the national championship in more than 30 years.

In fact, it hasn’t been a good tournament for any of the countries that host the four majors.

John Isner went out in a 4-6, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 9-7 loss to No. 15 Marin Cilic late Saturday, leaving Andy Roddick as the only American in the tournament.

“I didn’t want to go out in the round of 32 — it stinks,” said Isner, who is famous for his epic encounter against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year that finished 70-68 in the fifth and is the longest tennis match in history. “It’s going to be tough to sleep.”

Roddick plays 19th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the fourth round on Sunday night.

There’s no French players left in the men’s or women’s draws after Alize Cornet’s loss to Kim Clijsters. And there’s only one Brit — 2010 runner-up Andy Murray beat Guillermo Garcia Lopez on Saturday and has conceded just 17 games en route to the round of 16.

There’s a Canadian in the mix, though. Big serving 20-year-old qualifier Milos Raonic upset No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to become the first Canadian in a dozen years to reach the fourth round of a major.

Other men advancing included two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling, seeded fourth, No. 7 David Ferrer and No. 11 Jurgen Melzer, while No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and No. 3 Clijsters, the U.S. Open champion Clijsters, led those advancing on the women’s side.