Japanese No.1 Rallies, Maria To Meet Serena

Ayumi Morita saved two match points to reach the quarters. Marina Erakovic beat Victoria Azarenka.

Published July 28, 2011 12:00

Japanese No.1 Rallies, Maria To Meet Serena
Ayumi Morita

STANFORD, CA, USA - Japanese No.1 Ayumi Morita followed up her upset over Ana Ivanovic with a nail-biting victory in Stanford on Thursday, battling back from 64 52 down to get past Poland's Urszula Radwanska and move into the quarterfinals of the Premier-level Bank of the West Classic.

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The 21-year-old Morita, who leads Kimiko Date-Krumm in the rankings by two spots (No.50 to No.52), showed her two-fisted groundstrokes can catch fire at any moment, fending off three match points in the second set (two at 2-5, one at 4-5) then storming to a 46 75 61 victory over the younger Radwanska.

"I wasn't playing badly in the first two sets, Urszula was playing very well," Morita said. "I knew if I kept fighting I would get more chances and I did, and I think she was a little bit disappointed to not make those match points. I kept focusing hard in the third set. It was a very tough and long match."

Morita will play No.3 seed Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals, a rare match between two players who hit with two hands off both sides. Bartoli has won all four previous meetings with Morita, although two have gone to three sets.

"She's definitely a great player. She's in the Top 10," Morita commented. "I'm just going to try my best. I hope I can continue to play well moving forward."

Morita wasn't the only surprise winner of the day - Marina Erakovic, who has been trying to work her way back up the rankings after she missed six months in 2009 due to a hip injury, stunned top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka by nearly the same score in the second match of the day, 46 75 62.

"Today I think I had a bit of an advantage. I had a few wins in the qualies and a first round win, and I think this was her first match in a while," Erakovic said. "I just tried to go after it and dictate and really take control of the match. In the third set she started to spray some balls, which was obviously good for me."

Erakovic, who went as high as No.49 in 2008 (the second New Zealander ever to crack the Top 50, after Belinda Cordwell) was as low as No.750 in the time since the injury, but in the spring she began picking up momentum on the ITF Circuit (winning three titles). She had never won a set in three prior meetings with the Top 10 (Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva).

In the third match of the day, Serena Williams followed up her 60 60 first round drubbing of Anastasia Rodionova with a tougher 62 36 62 win over Maria Kirilenko, looking a bit out of sorts in the second set then dropping serve in the first game of the third set before finding her range again to win six of the last seven games. Her serve had a particularly good day - she hit 14 aces.

"I felt I was a D at best," Williams said. "I felt a little sluggish out there today. I wasn't moving well - I wasn't moving, period. I guess it's always good to play matches and get match fit, though, so I guess it wasn't too bad."

Next up for Williams will be a blockbuster quarterfinal match-up against the tournament's No.2 seed, Maria Sharapova. The two multiple Grand Slam champions have met eight times before, with Williams leading their head-to-head, 6-2 - Williams has won their last five meetings in a row though.

"Just like when I'm playing anyone, I'm going to go out there and do the best I can do - just like she will do," Williams said about the looming match-up. "This is a job for me and I'm trying to get paid - I've been off a year."

As if Azarenka's departure wasn't enough, another Top 4 seed fell on Day 3 - under the lights, Sabine Lisicki blasted 13 aces to beat No.4 seed Samantha Stosur in straight sets, 63 75. The German faced only one break point and saved it - she has now won 13 of her last 14 matches and will next face No.5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals on Friday.

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