NEW YORK (AFP) - Peng Shuai allowed Chinese fans to forget the injury-enforced absence of Li Na when she stunned Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska at the US Open on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old, ranked at 39 in the world, clinched a shock 6-3, 6-4 win to clinch a fourth career victory over a top five player but first at a Grand Slam. Peng had also defeated Radwanska, the champion in Montreal in the run-up to the tournament, at the same stage in New York in 2010.
The softly-spoken Tianjin native also wiped out the misery of her last clash against the Pole when she squandered two match points in losing their fourth round encounter at the 2011 Australian Open.
Peng, who has reached six singes finals in her career but has yet to lift a title, said she had been inspired by Li Na, the Australian Open champion and 2011 French Open winner.
"I have learned a lot from Li," said Peng of her world number two compatriot who is missing from New York to nurse a knee injury.
"She is one of the best players in the world. Now I will try to keep going.
"There is still a lot of work to do but I want to keep enjoying my tennis."
Despite her admiration for her compatriot, Peng, 28, has already achieved something that Li has not. In February this year she became the first Chinese player to reach number one in the world when she went top of the doubles charts thanks to her success with Taiwan partner Hsieh Su-Wei.
Peng sent down 28 winners on Wednesday in a gruelling clash on the Louis Armstrong Stadium which featured a series of brutal flat-hitting rallies in temperatures bursting through the 30-degree barrier.
"Radwanska is a tough player. I had to do a lot of running, but I fought," said Peng who took victory on a third match point. "I wanted to make it this time. I had two match points against her in 2011 in Australia and lost. This is just amazing."
As Peng goes on to face Italian 12th seed Roberta Vinci for a place in the last 16, Radwanska was forced to contemplate another disappointing US Open.
The Wimbledon runner-up in 2012 has reached at least the quarter-finals at the All England Club and Australian and French Opens. But the 25-year-old has still yet to get beyond the fourth round in New York despite nine attempts.