(March 26, 2013) -- It was slightly less complicated than her 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 whiplash special over Dominika Cibulkova, but Serena Williams'; 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Li Na was not without its own set of complications.
But complications are what the five-time Miami champion seems to thrive on. Today was no exception as the top seed battled tough conditions, an injury scare and a formidable opponent to tie Steffi Graf for the all-time lead in wins at the Sony Open with 59.,
Williams started the match by erasing three break points in the first game, two with bristling serves down the T that spun away from Li so that she couldn't do anything but get a racquet on the ball, and the third on a backhand error from the 5th seed.
But Li would keep pace until an ill-timed double-fault gave the five-time Miami champion the only break she would need in the first set in the sixth game.
Williams held twice to finish the set, but would seek assistance from the trainer immediately afterwards. The trainer seemed to be addressing a right groin or hip issue, but Williams herself didn't seem sure.
“I just had a little bit of a problem, a little with the hip, and it was just really weird, Williams said afterwards. “So it just kind of--I don't know how to describe it.”
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Though she displayed no signs of being injured in the second set, Williams hurt herself in other ways. After taking an early 2-0 lead, the World No. 1 double-faulted on consecutive points to give Li two chances to get back on serve. On the next point Williams missed a backhand to surrender the break.
“It's embarrassing and unprofessional,” Williams said of her double-faults. “I hit about 50 in one game, and it was just outrageous.”
The “outrageous” stumble by Williams was an open door that Li was more than happy to crawl through. She won the next three games and even managed to gain a set point with Williams serving at 2-5.
But as was the case on Monday, Williams, when faced with adversity, found a way to overcome.
Li, who has now lost seven of eight career matches against Williams, offered up her analysis of that critical juncture in the press room after the match: “I think today she has pretty good serve when I have set point, and even in the tiebreak she have pretty good serve, so I was feeling returns a little bit tough, you know,” she said. “So I really couldn't, how do you say, couldn't hit the ball to have a return to my way.”
Williams would rally all the way back to tie the set, and in the tiebreaker, each player commanded their serve until Williams finally was able to crack the code on her first match point. With Li approaching the net, she unleashed a forehand cross-court passing shot for a winner and jumped skyward, knees bent, fists pumped, in celebration.
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“I don't usually leap like that in the quarterfinal, but it was just a good shot and I kind of expected her to get it,” Williams said.
Williams will go for a record 60th Sony Open win in the semifinals on Thursday when she meets either Agnieszka Radwanska or Kirsten Flipkens.
Williams owns a 4-0 career record against Radwanska and she has never played Flipkens.
As for Li, though disappointed by the loss, she appears to have put the ankle injury that kept her out of action for nearly two months behind her. She made that much clear when reporters touched on the subject today, saying “Okay, I will say again: No injury anymore. Now I was feeling 100% in my ankle. Please don't ask about the injury. I'm happy now.”