Li Na made a winning return to Melbourne Park today, beating Kazahkstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1 6-3 in 78 minutes in the opening match on Margaret Court Arena.
It was a much different story to her last match here, when Li was left heartbroken and in tears after losing to defending champion Kim Clijsters after holding four match points in their fourth round match in 2012.
Li, the No.6 seed, was clinicial in today’s victory, striking 21 winners in a display of aggressive tennis against the world No.113.
She raced through the first set in 33 minutes, winning it 6-1.
Karatantcheva, competing in her fourth Australian Open, lacked the firepower and consistency to trouble Li. She only managed one winner for the first set. She kept fighting though, continuing to push Li despite falling an early break behind in the second set.
Li needed three match points to close it out, sealing it with a forehand winner to break Karatantcheva’s serve for a second time in the set.
“(It is) always tough in first round,” Li said. “You just come to the court 50/50. You never know you can beat her or you can lose her.”
Li, who became the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam final at the 2011 Australian Open, has started the season well, winning her seventh career title at Shenzhen earlier this month then reaching the semi-finals in Sydney last week. This is her first Australian Open campaign with coach Carlos Rodriguez, who previously worked with 2004 champion Justine Henin.
Li said Rodriguez, who she started working with in August last year, was having a positive influence on her game.
“He's not only teacher about tennis,” she said. “Also about (making) my mind more stronger on the court. “
Li will next play Olga Govortsova from Belarus, who defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 2-6 6-3 6-2 in just under two hours on court 10 earlier today.