INDIAN WELLS: Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams battled back from a break down in the final set to beat Chinese qualifier Peng Shuai and reach the quarter-finals at Indian Wells on Tuesday.
Williams advanced 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and could next face Angelique Kerber – the woman who will supplant Serena Williams atop the world rankings next Monday.
Second-seeded Kerber, the top player in the draw after Serena Williams’s injury withdrawal, faced Russian Elena Vesnina for a place in the last eight later Tuesday.
Eighth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova sped past Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-4 to lead the way into the quarters.
Kuznetsova is in the last eight in the California desert for the first time since reaching back-to-back finals in 2007 and 2008.
The 31-year-old Russian, owner of two Grand Slam singles titles, enjoyed a resurgence in 2016, winning two titles and upsetting world number one Serena Williams in Miami as she returned to the top 10 in the world for the first time since 2010.
“I just fell in love with the game again,” said Kuznetsova, who next faces compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who toppled fifth-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Kuznetsova has won five of eight career clashes with Pavlyuchenkova, but Pavlyuchenkova has won their most recent meetings, at Sydney and Melbourne this year.
Pavlyuchenkova belted 35 winners as she kept the normally aggressive Cibulkova in check, avenging a three-set loss to the Slovak in Doha.
“I always like to get revenges,” Pavlyuchenkova said.
“The key was to be aggressive, which is my game, but at the same time find the balance between being aggressive and not giving her a lot of easy shots, easy points, because she’s a great fighter, and she’s always there.
“I know when she’s down in the score, she’s going for the shots. I was trying to balance all that and mixing my serve, as well.”
Third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova booked her quarter-final berth with an abbreviated appearance under the hot desert sun.
She was leading Timea Bacsinszky 5-1 when the Swiss player retired with a left wrist injury.
Pliskova next faces either seventh-seeded French Open champion Garbine Muguruza or 10th-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, winner of titles in Taiwan and Dubai already this year. --AFP