Both women produced five aces and three double faults but the Chinese player, seeded sixth at Flushing Meadows, had more success on her serve as she beat the Russian 6-4 7-6 (7/4) in a tussle lasting a little over an hour and three quarters.
Fourth seed Marion Bartoli served a staggering 10 double faults but prevailed in an error-strewn match against Klara Zakopalova.
The Frenchwoman could convert only six of her 21 break points but enjoyed more success on her serve as she won 6-2 2-6 6-1.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, seeded eighth, eased through 6-2 6-4 against Roberta Vinci although the Russian produced five double faults.
Anabel Medina Garrigues edged a hard-fought match against Elena Vesnina 6-2 7-6 (7/5).