Thu, 02 Jan 2014 22:30:00 GMT | By AFP

Li Na notches hard-fought victory at Shenzhen

Li Na defeated Romania's Monica Niculescu 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to enter women’s quarterfinals

Li Na notches hard-fought victory at Shenzhen (© AFP)

Beijing: Chinese superstar Li Na battled her way to yet another victory on Thursday, downing Romania's Monica Niculescu after three action-filled sets in the women's singles quarter-final of the Shenzhen Open.

Li, Asia's highest-ranking player in tennis history, opened strongly, besting Niculescu 7-5 in the first set.

The 26-year-old Romanian fought back with a 6-4 win in the second set, before Li toppled her with a third-set, 6-4 victory.

Li, 31, is the defending Shenzhen Open champion and is also the world number three player.

Her success has sparked a new Chinese interest in tennis as well as a swell of national pride. China's state broadcaster CCTV this week named her rise its number two sports story of 2013.

China notched another victory on Thursday as fifth-seed Peng Shuai soared to victory over Slovakia's Jana Cepelova 6-3 6-2.

American Vania King bested Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2 6-4, while eight-seed Annika Beck of Germany came back from an initial 3-6 loss to triumph over Austria's Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in the final two sets, 6-3 6-1.

In the semi-final doubles, Niculescu and Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic had their second straight victory of the week, taking down China's Wang Yafan and Zheng Jie 6-3 6-4.

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