BEIJING, China - Angelique Kerber became the first player on the WTA this year to hit 60 wins for the season on Thursday, beating Caroline Wozniacki in a tough three-setter to move into the quarterfinals of the China Open.
The No.5-seeded Kerber looked headed for an easy day at the office as she raced out to a 61 10 lead, but Wozniacki won five straight games from there and eventually took the second set, 6-2; the third set went entirely on serve until the very last game of the match, where Kerber pounced with the No.10-seeded Wozniacki serving 4-5, 30-all, sneaking two points to end it, 61 26 64.
"I played very well in the first set," Kerber said. "In the second set she was playing better and not making so many mistakes. She really deserved to win the second set. Then in the third I tried to focus on me, tried to stay aggressive and move well. I'm very happy I won a very tough match against Caroline."
The win over Wozniacki came on the same day Kerber was announced as one of the latest qualifiers for the WTA Championships in Istanbul - but the World No.6 is currently maintaining her focus on this, the China Open in Beijing.
"I'm very happy I get the chance to play the Masters at the end of the year - that was a goal of mine, and I'm very happy for this," Kerber said. "It shows I've played a very good season, and I'm going to try to continue this. Right now I am focused only on this tournament, and then I will go to Luxembourg to play more matches, and then I'll be ready for the WTA Championships in Istanbul."
Kerber's 60 wins on the season are even more impressive given her totals for the previous years - the most WTA match wins she has ever had in a complete season before this was 23 in 2010, followed by 17 in 2011, and she never even cracked double digits before that. With Beijing, Luxembourg and Istanbul left, she could potentially triple her previous personal best by the end of 2012.
Meanwhile, No.7-seeded Li Na kept her hopes for qualifying for Istanbul alive, albeit barely, rallying from a set down and staying strong through a 5-3 deficit in the third set to beat unseeded countrywoman Peng Shuai, 46 62 76(3).
Seven of the eight spots in the Istanbul field are locked in, and the last one comes down to Li and Marion Bartoli. If Li wins her quarterfinal match in Beijing on Friday, she secures the spot; and even if she doesn't, Bartoli needs to win Beijing AND win Moscow to snatch the eighth spot in the field.