| Li Na in action against Mary Pierce on Sunday. The Chinese woman won 4-6, 6-0, 6-0. (AP)
New York: Top seed Amelie Mauresmo survived a wobble to beat Italian Mara Santangelo 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 on Sunday and set up a US Open fourth-round match against her nemesis Serena Williams.
Second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne crushed Israeli Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarter finals on Monday. Russian fourth seed Elena Dementieva booked a spot in the last eight by defeating France’s Aravane Rezai 7-5, 6-4. Dementieva will next face 19th seed Serbian Jelena Jankovic who stunned former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Serena, invited to the Open as a wild card, booked her date against Mauresmo by trouncing 16th seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-4.
Mauresmo, the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, has lost nine of 10 matches against seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams.
“When she’s playing well, she just does everything great,” Mauresmo said after recovering from 0-2 down in the final set to defeat Santangelo.
Serena has scarcely played this season, skipping six months after the Australian Open due to her off-court interests and an ailing knee.
The two-time former Open champion, however, feels her game is getting into shape in her fourth tournament of the year and is close to playing her best tennis.
“I’m definitely feeling close to that,” she told reporters. “I think I’m playing better with each match. I try to always do little things better and hopefully peak in the latter rounds.”
Serena acknowledged that Mauresmo, who has climbed to the top of the world rankings, has been on good form.
“Mauresmo has been playing the best of anyone on the tour this year,” she said. “So it will be a good chance to see how I play against her. I like playing her, should be a good match. I like the way she hits the ball. I just think we always have some really interesting matches. My game just likes her game.”
Li Na beat last year’s runner-up Mary Pierce 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 to become the first Chinese woman to reach the last 16 of the US Open.
Li showed her resolve by coming back after losing the first set to 13th-seeded French veteran Mary Pierce, sweeping the last 12 games to seal victory. After committing 22 unforced errors in the opening set, Li made only three errors in a near-perfect second set to turn the match around.
Next up for the 24-year-old Li is third-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova, who has beaten Li three times without losing a set, twice this season and in the third round of the 2005 Australian Open.
Sharapova beat countrywoman and No. 32 seed Elena Likhovtseva 6-3, 6-2.
Lindsay Davenport saved two match points before beating Slovenian Katarina Srebotnik to join Mauresmo in the next round, while Nadia Petrova was sent packing 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 by France’s Tatiana Golovin.
Davenport played well below her best but still won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. The American 10th seed won the decisive tie-breaker 7-5 after saving two match points in the 12th game of the third set.
Top-seeded Roger Federer had a quick trip into the fourth round. Playing a rare night match at Louis Armstrong Stadium, the two-time defending champion rolled into the round of 16 with a crushing 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over unseeded Vince Spadea.
Federer can expect tougher battles ahead as he works his way toward a possible showdown final against second seed Rafael Nadal.
Federer will next meet 79th-ranked Marc Gicquel of France, who beat 21st-seed Gaston Gaudio of Argentina 6-0, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3).
Number two seed Nadal advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) win over Wesley Moodie of South Africa.
Andre Agassi’s glittering career came to a tearful conclusion when he lost in four sets to German qualifier Benjamin Becker (as reported in Monday’s Late City edition).
Becker, the world No. 112 who is playing just his second Grand Slam event, sent the 36-year-old Agassi into retirement with a 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In other men’s matches, No. 5 James Blake, No. 9 Andy Roddick, 15th seed Lleyton Hewitt and No. 17 Andy Murray all advanced.
David Nalbandian lost his second-round match to Marat Safin 3-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 in a three-hour, 52-minute marathon, while Roddick went the distance to subdue Fernando Verdasco of Spain, 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-2.
Fifth seed James Blake fought off four set points in the second-set tie-breaker on his way to a 6-4 7-6 2-6 6-3 victory over Carlos Moya. Blake next plays 12th seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, a five-set winner over Russian Dmitry Tursunov, the 23rd seed.
Murray beat No. 10 seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, while Hewitt defeated No. 20 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.