Until a remarkable Maria Sharapova comeback stopped her in her tracks in Madrid, Li Na's transition to clay was going remarkable smoothly. Judging by her performance against Casey Dellacqua, that hiccup does not seem to have set her back. Her reward for that win is a meeting with another Australian, former French Open runner-up Samantha Stosur.
The Turning Point
Going into their third round meeting on Grandstand, Stosur had never tasted defeat against Li. While the most recent of these came two and a half years ago, Stosur seemed to take confidence from her record, holding her own early on against the World No.2.
As the set progressed, though, Li began to take control of the baseline exchanges and with it the match. Three straight breaks helped her to the first set and the winners continued to flow in the second, a couple of stunning returns giving her an early breakthrough.
With Stosur struggling to win points on serve, the rest of her game began to unravel and after just one hour and eight minutes, Li wrapped up an emphatic victory with a pin-point, down-the-line forehand.
By The Numbers
That forehand was Li's 17th winner of the match. However, the key to her victory lay in her dominance on return, with Stosur picking up just three service games and winning only 44% of the points behind her first delivery.
"I think today I was very focused on what I had to do on the court and put a lot of pressure on her," Li said. "I think it was the key for me to win the match, because before she was using her forehand a lot and she was totally in control of those matches.
"When I come to the court, I told myself, 'Okay, it doesn't matter who's the opponent.' I thought if I hit the ball right, I could make the difference, because the last six times I was trying to control the ball and gave her a lot of chances."
One of last year's semifinalists, Sara Errani, awaits Li in the last eight. Errani was made to work hard for her spot, eventually overcoming the stubborn resistance of qualifier Petra Cetkovska, 6-4, 7-6(3). Li has never lost to the Italian in six meetings, winning five of these in straight sets.