* Vinci continues excellent U.S. Open record
* Win over Serena Williams always on her mind (Adds quotes, detail)
By Steve Keating
NEW YORK, Sept 4 Italian seventh seed Roberta Vinci was first through to the U.S. Open quarter-finals, taming Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 7-6(5) 6-2 on Sunday.
Tsurenko, at number 99 the lowest ranked player to make it through to the last 16, represented a tricky test for last year's U.S. Open runner-up, having knocked off 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova and 21st seed Irina-Camelia Begu to get to the fourth round.
The 27-year-old Ukrainian looked a chance to add another seeded scalp to her Flushing Meadows collection as she forced the first set to a tiebreak before surrendering 7-5.
After a draining 67-minute opening set, Tsurenko had little left in the tank for the second and Vinci quickly stamped her authority on the match by going up a break and cruising to an easy win.
"The tiebreak was a lot of pressure but I said, I have to win this set because I think the key was to win the first set," said Vinci, after reaching the quarter-finals in Flushing Meadows for the fourth time in five years. "I think she was tired at the end.
"I don't know why I'm always playing good here. Maybe the courts, maybe the atmosphere, maybe the crowd.
"Maybe also because this tournament is almost at the end of the season and I always playing good this part of the season.
"I don't know why. Really, I don't know but I love to play here in the States."
Vinci now finds herself just two wins away from returning to the U.S. Open final where she lost to fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta.
To reach the 2015 final Vinci pulled off one of the biggest ever grand slam upsets when she knocked off world number one and hot favourite Serena Williams in the semi-finals.
This year the 33-year-old Italian's big test could come a bit earlier in the quarters, where she will face either second-seeded Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber or 14th-seeded twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
"Is always in my mind. I remember everything," said Vinci recalling her stunning upset of Williams. "That match was for me an incredible match, the best match of my life for sure.
"I know it's tough to repeat again the same results of last year, but I'm in the quarter-final.
"I have won four matches here. I don't want to stop. I want to continue." (Editing by Larry Fine/Andrew Both)