Chinese sixth seed Li Na, the 2011 champion, was knocked out of the rain-lashed French Open on Thursday while Novak Djokovic moved effortlessly closer to a first Roland Garros crown.
Li went down 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to brash American Bethanie Matt-ek-Sands in what was the 31-year-old’s earliest defeat at the tournament in seven appearances.
As Mattek-Sands, the world number 67, looked forward to a third round match-up with Argentine qualifier Paula Ormae-chea, Li was left surveying the wreckage of a second successive Roland Garros failure.
Twelve months ago, she went out in the last 16 to Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova, who herself was beaten by Ormaechea on Thursday. “I know for sure I lost seven games in a row.
It was tough conditions, back to the court three times,” said Li after her on-off encounter. “But for both players it was the same, so I need to talk to myself and talk to the team to see what happened.”
On a day which suffered over three hours in rain delays, top-seeded Djokovic wasted no time in making the third round.
He eased past Argentina’s world 83 Guido Pella, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 to set-up a mouth-watering clash with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic is bidding to win a first French Open and become just the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam. Dimitrov beat him in the Madrid Masters second round earlier this month.
The 26th seeded Bulgarian will be playing in the last 32 of a major for the first time after breezing past French wildcard Lucas Pouille, the world number 324, in straight sets 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.
Later Thursday, seven-time champion Rafael Nadal, who is hoping to become the first man to win the same major eight times, faces Slovakia’s Martin Klizan for a place in the last 32.
Nadal, the third seed, is also seeking an 11th Grand Slam title.
Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori made the third round for the first time with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win over Grega Zemlja of Slovenia.
Third seed Victoria Azarenka reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Germany’s Annika Beck.