MELBOURNE, Australia - An all-Chinese fourth round match was looming, until a big-hitting German stepped in - elsewhere, two former No.1s took Rod Laver Arena, with one just too sharp on the day.
Earlier it was No.18-seeded Julia Goerges who pulled off the most electrifying win, battling back from 5-3 down in the third set to win a two-hour, 12-minute grinder against China's Zheng Jie, 63 16 75.
"The last four games were pretty good for me," Goerges commented. "It was a great match - we had tough rallies, good shots and good winners. I stayed there the whole match. In the end I knew I'd always have a chance to break her, that I'd always have a chance to fight back. I did it pretty well today."
"Today it could have gone either way, and the next one is the same as today," Goerges said. "She's a Grand Slam champion, and I'll have to be there from the first second on. But you always have a chance to beat those players. I have done it before, and hopefully I can keep going like this."
Li closed out a tight first set then cruised in her match against Sorana Cirstea, storming into the second week of one of her favorite Grand Slams in an hour and 11 minutes over the No.27 seed, 64 61.
"I was a little nervous before the match today because I played her many, many times, and she hits the ball unbelievable," Li said. "I never know if the next ball will be in our out against her, I just have to be ready every second. But it was pretty good today. I felt in control. It was better than I thought."
And on Goerges? "I finished my match and Zheng Jie was in the locker room," Li said. "We talked a little bit. I was a bit sad - she just lost her match and then she had to focus on the doubles.
"I've never played Julia before but I don't need to think about it today, because I just finished this one. I will just enjoy the rest of today, and I'll get ready for the next one in time for Sunday."
Also moving through to the second week - in fact her first second week of a Grand Slam - was Kirsten Flipkens, who had tears in her eyes after grinding out a 62 46 63 victory against Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh. The 27-year-old Belgian has been coming on strong over the last several months - she made her Top 50 debut this week and has now won 17 of her last 21 WTA-level matches.
That stretch may be tough to stretch out any further, however, as next up is Maria Sharapova. The No.2-seeded Sharapova was just too sharp against No.25 seed Venus Williams in one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament under the lights, racing out to a 61 51 lead and, after a late fightback from her fellow former World No.1, closing it out with an ace up the T on match point, 61 63.
"I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis she's capable of producing and playing," Sharapova said in her post-match press conference. "Despite what she's ranked or seeded, it doesn't matter when you go out on the court. She's been there. She's experienced enough to know no matter if you're playing the third round, the quarters or the final, you have to be ready.
"I certainly was. Since the draw came out, I was really looking forward to that match-up."
"She played well - I expected her to play well," Williams said afterwards. "It definitely wasn't my best day today. I definitely had a lot of unforced errors. But there's always other days to play better.
"Now I'll focus on the doubles here and then get ready for the next tournament. I have to wait until the French Open to play another major in singles, but there will be a lot of tennis in between."
Sharapova was asked about Flipkens. "This is the best Slam she's done, so there's a reason she's at this level," she said. "It's great to see her playing like that. She did extremely well in the juniors, and she's obviously doing a good job of transitioning her game into the pros. She's a tricky player - she uses her slice really well and she's a good athlete too. She's an opponent I really have to look out for."