China’s Peng Shuai reached the first grand slam singles quarter-final of her career, toppling 14th-seeded Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4 to reach the US Open last eight.
“I don’t know how many aces I had, but I know I had one on the match point,” said Peng, who had lost four of five previous encounters with Safarova.
“Amazing! I’m so happy, so excited,” the softly spoken Tianjin native said. "All the time in grand slams I think maybe I can take one more step, one more step.”
She converted both of her break opportunities - one in each set - and saved the only break point she faced in the contest, which was played under the lights on the intimate confines of Court Five after a two-hour rain delay forced the day’s late afternoon matches to be rescheduled.
She said she was preparing for her match as usual, and hadn’t even noticed the torrential rain sweeping across the tennis center at Flushing Meadows until she saw that the match on court before hers had been suspended.
The bit of confusion didn’t seem to slow the 28-year-old down, she fired 17 winners with just seven unforced errors, giving Safarova no opening whatsoever.
She was astonished to see so many Chinese fans in the stands of the 1,032-seat Court Five.
“My fitness coach, he’s from France, and he said ’I thought you were playing in China,’” said Peng, who is carrying Chinese hopes with Australian Open and former French Open champion Li Na sidelined by injury.
The 28-year-old world number 39 owns two grand slam doubles titles, and is through to the third round of doubles with Taiwanese partner Hsieh Su-Wei.
Now she’ll have to learn to manage both competitions in the second week of a major - a problem she’s happy to have.
“I just need more rest, more focus,” said Peng, who will face Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic for a place in the semi-finals.
The path to the women's final is more open than ever this year, with only two of the top 10 seeds - Serena Williams (1) and Eugenie Bouchard (7) left. Those two are scheduled to meet in the semis.
Both Bouchard and Peng are to compete in the inaugural Hong Kong Tennis Open, which begins just hours after the women's final in New York finishes. Organisers say the will make every effort to accomodate the pair, should they reach the final.