NEW YORK • With a 35-5 win-loss record on the hard-courts this season, Simona Halep has more victories on this surface than any other woman in the US Open main draw.
But she had never reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows - until Monday, when she overcame injury and 30 deg C heat to beat German 24th seed Sabine Lisicki 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2.
This year, Halep carried high expectations at the French Open and Wimbledon only to lose in the second round and first round respectively. But a change in approach did the trick for the world No. 2.
"So here I changed a little bit my mind," said the 23-year-old, "and I have no expectations."
In the last eight, the Romanian will face 20th-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Varvara Lepchenko of the United States.
Halep called Azarenka a "fighter girl", but she could easily have been describing herself on Monday.
Against Lisicki, Halep served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken, and she also had a set point in the tie-breaker. Lisicki won the set despite 30 unforced errors, including 22 on her forehand.
Between sets, Halep sat in her chair, looking down with her head in her hand. She took a medical timeout to treat an apparent thigh injury.
The second set included nine service breaks, and both players paused between points to stretch cramping muscles. Halep served for the set at 5-3 and was broken again, but she broke Lisicki three games later to take the set.
At that point, the players had been on the sweltering Louis Armstrong Stadium court for 1 hour 56 minutes.
With a heat rule in effect, they left the court for a 10-minute break. When they came back, Halep seemed fresher, and Lisicki started cramping again. Halep converted 10 of 11 break-point opportunities in the match, including one in the sixth game of the third set to pull away.
Like Halep, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has been among the final eight at the other three Majors, but has never found much fortune once the US Open rolled around.
The fifth seed also claimed her first quarter-final berth at the Open, earning a 7-5, 6-3 victory over British qualifier Johanna Konta on Monday.
NEW YORK TIMES