US Open Fast Forward: Serena Williams, Li Na in Women's Quarterfinal Action
US Open Fast Forward breaks down the first two quarterfinals of 2013, both of which feature women’s major champions.
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Li Na: Two Russian women have won the US Open title in the last decade, and three have reached the final. When thinking of this proud tennis superpower, however, Makarova is not the first name that comes to mind. The last Russian woman standing at the 2013 tournament now has reached the quarterfinals at three of the last four hard-court majors. Makarova delivered two upsets to reach this stage over a pair of drastically contrasting opponents, the massive server Sabine Lisicki and the versatile counterpuncher Agnieszka Radwanska. Her tenacity emerged from both matches, of which the first stayed very tight throughout and the second started disastrously.
As she attempts to reach her first major semifinal, Makarova will hope for a more promising start against Li than what befell her against Radwanska. At neither of the extremes that Lisicki and Radwanska represent, the Chinese star deploys a balanced game built on seamless transitions between offense and defense. None of her first four opponents has tested her to this point, for she has lost more than three games in only one of eight sets. Li can falter when adversity strikes, as she showed during tight losses in the late rounds of Toronto and Cincinnati. Makarova may uncover that flaw if she keeps the match close, which could happen judging from history. Two of their three meetings have reached a final set, although the most recent did not, and one of the three-setters came at a past US Open. Li may have to work hard to reach her maiden semifinal at this major.
Serena Williams vs. Carla Suarez Navarro: The small Spaniard celebrates her 25th birthday with her first US Open quarterfinal after she upset top-eight seed Angelique Kerber. A tough competitor, Suarez Navarro battled through a third-set tiebreak with dogged court coverage usually more successful on slower surfaces. She has translated strengths fostered on clay to hard courts this year, achieving career highs in her ranking and standing toe to toe with women much more powerful than her.
One of those women stands in her path on Tuesday. The world No. 1 and defending champion has lost five total games in two matches against Suarez Navarro, who once defeated an error-prone Venus Williams at the Australian Open but has not come close to solving her sister. Not many people have at majors this year, where Serena has recorded at least one bagel or breadstick in 17 of 20 matches, including all four here. Having earned her revenge over Sloane Stephens for an Australian Open embarrassment, she will feel more convinced than ever that this tournament is hers to lose. Against an opponent as small as Suarez Navarro, Serena can open the court with wide serves even more easily than in most matches. She also has punished the modest serves of grinders like this Spaniard all season, not allowing them to settle into rallies. Suarez Navarro may enjoy other birthdays more than her 25th.