Kim Clijsters was courage personified as the defending champion shook off a painful ankle injury and saved four match points to overhaul China’s Li Na 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 and reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, according to Eurosport.
The big-hearted Belgian rolled her left ankle at 3-3 in the first set on a scorching day at Rod Laver Arena but rejoined the battle after a lengthy medical time-out with her foot thickly taped.
In a rematch of last year’s finalists, 11th seed Clijsters stared at the abyss when 6-2 down in the second set tiebreak but reeled off six points in a row to take the set and spark a rapturous ovation from the stands.
After trailing 4-0 in the decider, the hard-hitting Li recovered to claw back to 5-4 down but Clijsters weathered the challenge to close out the match and keep her hopes alive of a fifth grand slam title in her farewell year on tour.
“It has to be (one of my best comebacks),” Clijsters said red-faced in a courtside interview after raising her arms in triumph to acknowledge the roaring crowd. “I can’t believe I won.
“I knew before the match that it was going to be a tough match, physically, mentally.
“It was amazing to get through and to fight and probably not with my best tennis.”
French Open champion Li took the first set of last year’s final against the Belgian but was once again left crestfallen after missing a golden chance to put her Melbourne Park nemesis away.
Clijsters will play top seed Caroline Wozniacki, in the fourth round after she defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-0 7-5 in the evening session on Rod Laver Arena.
Federer ends Tomic hopes
A masterly Roger Federer ended local hope Bernard Tomic’s dreams of a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals with a ruthless 6-4 6-2 6-2 fourth round victory, according to Eurosport.
The Swiss, who is bidding for his 17th grand slam title, had no room for sentiment for the 19-year-old Queenslander or the packed crowd on Rod Laver Arena as he advanced to a last eight encounter against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Local fans, mindful that former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, who despite his heroics at this tournament with a fourth round clash against Novak Djokovic on Monday, is edging towards retirement and are in desperate need to find a new contender.
Del Potro reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since injury wrecked his 2010 season with a 6-4 6-2 6-1 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“I’m very happy to be in quarters… it’s amazing for me play another quarters in a grand slam after three years, that’s a good sign for my comeback,” he said.