U.S. Open: Peng Shuai powers into semis; Roger Federer in last eight

Peng Shuai celebrates becoming only the third Chinese tennis player to ever reach a grand slam semifinal

Story highlights

  • Peng Shuai becomes only third Chinese player to reach a grand slam semifinal
  • Unseeded 28-year-old beats teen Belinda Bencic, next faces Caroline Wozniacki
  • Peng underwent major heart surgery aged 12 to pursue tennis dream
  • Five-time men's champion Roger Federer through to quarterfinals

China's population may be in excess of 1.3 billion inhabitants but only two of its players had ever reached a grand slam semifinal -- until Tuesday.

That was when unseeded Peng Shuai put years of frustration, thoughts of retirement and major heart surgery to one side as she blew away Swiss teen Belinda Bencic at the U.S. Open.

At her 37th grand slam, the 28-year-old was finally into her first semifinals.

The buildup had mainly focused on the 17-year-old Bencic but it was the little known Peng -- far more recognized as a doubles player -- who stole the show with a powerful display.

Read: Knee injury forces Li Na out of U.S. Open

By so doing, she follows in the footsteps of Li Na, a two-time grand slam winner, and Zheng Jie, who reached semifinals at Wimbledon (2008) and the Australian Open (2010).

"It's a little bit too exciting," Peng said on court after her 6-2 6-1 victory, earning a round of applause after pausing as emotion got the better of her.

Althea Gibson's Tennis legacy
Althea Gibson's Tennis legacy


    Althea Gibson's Tennis legacy


Althea Gibson's Tennis legacy 04:50
Ana Ivanovic fights to regain number 1 status
Ana Ivanovic fights to regain number 1 status


    Ana Ivanovic fights to regain number 1 status


Ana Ivanovic fights to regain number 1 status 03:20

"I love tennis, I love to play."

That much is clear from her back story.

Aged 12, Peng went against her family wishes to undergo a major operation to repair a fault in her heart.

The procedure was so complicated surgeons had to access her heart through her left leg but as Peng made clear in a 2008 advertisement, there was one fundamental reason she went through with it.

"All I thought was very simple: if I want to continue tennis, I need to have this operation," she said in the Adidas advert.

Nearly two decades later, her tenacity was rewarded when she achieved the No. 1 ranking in doubles.

By so doing, she became the first Chinese to ever achieve top spot -- whether in singles or doubles, male or female.

Despite the ranking, a player who has never won a singles title revealed she had been wracked by doubts in recent times.

"A career is tough sometimes," said Peng in victory. "I've thought about giving up, stopping playing (singles), because I didn't know if I can make it, but my coach and parents told me to never give up."

With her two-fisted ground strokes proving too much for a rattled Bencic, the youngest U.S. Open quarterfinalist since 1997, Peng hit 24 winners.

Li Na wins 'dream' trophy
Li Na wins 'dream' trophy


    Li Na wins 'dream' trophy


Li Na wins 'dream' trophy 01:36
Sharapova's agent inspired by ESPN
Sharapova's agent inspired by ESPN


    Sharapova's agent inspired by ESPN


Sharapova's agent inspired by ESPN 02:51

Although Zheng was the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam semifinal, world No. 3 Li has taken the country's tennis further.

She won its first singles grand slam at the 2011 French Open, before clinching a second title at this year's Australian Open.

No Chinese woman has ever reached the U.S. Open singles final, a record that Peng -- who has won two grand slam doubles titles in the last year -- will try to correct on Thursday.

She will meet 2009 finalist Caroline Wozniacki, who continued her career resurgence by crushing Italian 13th seed Sara Errani 6-0 6-1 later Tuesday.

The former world No. 1, who has a 5-1 career record over Peng, reached the last four of a grand slam for the first time since 2011, also in New York.

"She was much stronger than me physically tonight," said Errani, a semifinalist in 2012. "She doesn't let you play. She never misses.

"And every point was a long point, and it made me feel worse, physically."

Serena Williams is in action on Wednesday against Italy's Flavia Pennetta, but she suffered a frustrating day on Tuesday.

Not only did she lose her doubles quarterfinal with sister Venus to Russian pair Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, but she also suffered an injury scare.

Becker: Reaction to coaching job surprised me
Becker: Reaction to coaching job surprised me


    Becker: Reaction to coaching job surprised me


Becker: Reaction to coaching job surprised me 08:01
Inside Andy Murray's luxury hotel
Inside Andy Murray's luxury hotel


    Inside Andy Murray's luxury hotel


Inside Andy Murray's luxury hotel 05:46

The world No. 1's right foot had to be heavily bandaged early in the second set of the 7-6 6-4 defeat.

In the men's event, second seed Roger Federer marched into the quarterfinals for the 10th time in the last 11 years with an aggressive 6-4 6-3 6-2 win over Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

The five-time U.S. champion, seeking his first final appearance since losing the 2009 title match, came to the net 50 times as he comfortably set up a clash with French 20th seed Gael Monfils.

"I'm happy I'm able to come forward now because coming to net requires a lot of agility and explosiveness, and I have it back," said the veteran 17-time grand slam winner.

He has a 7-2 record over Monfils, beating him in three sets on the way to winning the Cincinnati title last month.

"I know exactly how I need to play him," Federer said. "I know I'll be coming in; he knows he'll be defending. He'll be wanting to serve well and play big as well."

Monfils, known for his all-action style, was in impressive form as he overcame a sluggish Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows for a third time.

Sixth seed Tomas Berdych will play Croatia's Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals, after the Czech beat Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-1 6-2 6-4.

Cilic, seeded 14th, came from behind to beat Richard Gasquet 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 3-6 6-3, avenging his five-set defeat by the Frenchman at January's Australian Open.

In Wednesday's opening quarterfinals, Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka takes on Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori, then in the late session world No. 1 Novak Djokovic plays Andy Murray in a repeat of the 2012 title match.

Read: Greatness beckons for Bencic

Read: Third time lucky for Li at Australian Open


    • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

      What does 2015 hold for Rafa?

      Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

      Love game: Andy Murray to tie knot

      The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
    • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

      'Crocodile' who broke all the rules

      His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
    • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

      Serena savors U.S. Open win

      Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
    • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

      The amazing life of Althea Gibson

      Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
    • Courting couple at match point

      "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
    • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

      'Baby' Sharapova's big moment

      It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
    • 'Swiss Miss' follows mom's lead

      Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.