INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - In a match between two of China's true trailblazers, Li Na beat Zheng Jie in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, her first win in five career meetings against her tenacious countrywoman.
Zheng won the pair's four other meetings, but they hadn't met in almost six years, and those seemed a distant memory as the No.8-seeded Li cruised to a 61 63 win over No.31 seed Zheng, winning eight straight games at one point.
"It's always tough to play a player from the same country because we know each other a lot," Li said. "We used to be in the national teams together, practicing and travelling together all the time. So it was tough to play against her, but I'm so happy because it was the first time I beat her. The last time we played was six years ago, so, you know, six years can change many things.
"I tried not to think about our other matches. If you think too much, things can maybe turn around in two seconds. You just have to play - it doesn't matter."
Another player overcoming a tough head-to-head was Julia Goerges. Having split four career meetings against Anabel Medina Garrigues, she knew she had her work cut out for her - and the No.14-seeded German did it, battling from 0-3 in the second set to beat the No.24-seeded Spanish veteran, 63 64.
"Anabel played some really good tennis and we had long rallies," Goerges said. "It was a tough match, but I just tried to stay focused and play my game, and just dictate when I could. At the end I was pretty happy to pull it out."
There has been a lot of German success on the WTA as of late, but one player who has been missing lately - since Australia, to be exact - is World No.10 Andrea Petkovic, who has been out due to a lower back injury. "Unfortunately she's still injured, but she's a tough girl and I know she's coming back," Goerges said. "I expect her being tougher than ever before when she does."
And what about 21-year-old Mona Barthel, who had World No.1 Victoria Azarenka down 4-1 in the third set two days earlier? "Mona has had great results this year. I've known her for a long time because we live half an hour away in Germany, and I've been playing with her in club matches in Germany," Goerges added. "She's a very talented girl. She has good eyes on the court. She almost beat Vika here. She's going to be dangerous in the future."
Next up for Goerges will be the top-ranked, top-seeded Azarenka, who took just 60 minutes to completely dominate No.25 seed and two-time BNP Paribas Open finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, 61 62, improving to 19-0 this year.
"I knew she was going to be dangerous," Azarenka said of Kuznetsova. "I know Sveta pretty well. We've practiced quite a few times and she has so much experience. She's a Grand Slam winner. I really had to step it up from my last match, and I'm glad I could perform much better than I did in that first match."
Goerges has two wins over a reigning No.1, beating Caroline Wozniacki twice last year during the clay court season, at Stuttgart and Madrid.
"It doesn't matter who you are playing, the same motivation has to be there every time you go on court," Goerges said. "Of course, when you play No.1 in the world, you have nothing to lose. Vika's a tough player and recently won her first Grand Slam, and hasn't lost a match so far this year. I'll just try to focus on my game and playing my game, and we'll see how far it brings me."