Chinese fourth seed Li Na admitted she was not at the top of her game yesterday after being forced to dig deep against teen qualifier Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open
Melbourne: Chinese fourth seed Li Na admitted she was not at the top of her game yesterday after being forced to dig deep against teen qualifier Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open.
China’s Li Na returns to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on Day Three of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP
With the temperature hitting 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) before the pair even stepped on court at 11:00 am, Li was keen to get back in the air conditioning quickly but the promising Swiss kept her in the boiling sun for 80 minutes.
Li Na made to sweat
While the first set was a breeze, the second was a serious workout for the Chinese star who has made the final at Melbourne Park twice before, including last year when she lost to Victoria Azarenka.
She eventually prevailed 6-0, 7-6 (7/5) to set up a third-round clash against 26th seeded Czech Lucie Safarova. “Every day is different, I cannot say I played 100 per cent,” Li said.
“Of course I cannot play 100 per cent every day, but (I played) at least 60, 65 per cent. It was a little bit warm out there,” she added. “I am pretty happy. At least I won the match and am still in the tournament.”
Li, 31, is one of the oldest women in the draw and she had already handed out a lesson to the youngest player during the first round when she hammered Ana Konjuh, 16.
Bencic, the second youngest by a matter of months, received similar treatment in the first set from a player almost double her age, on another day of furnace-like conditions on Rod Laver Arena.
The experienced Li, with her right knee taped, was taken to deuce in her opening service game as she set about finding her range before holding for 1-0.
Li was soon looking good and she blasted a forehand down the line to break, and then comfortably held as she raced to a 3-0 lead with Bencic struggling to stay in touch.
The Swiss, who beat 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm in the opening round, appeared overawed by the 2011 French Open champion and a crosscourt Li forehand handed her another break in the fourth.