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Fitter Li ready to repeat Australian Open success

sports Updated: Jan 10, 2011 09:38 IST

AFP
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China's Li Na, fitter and injury-free, said on Monday she was confident of repeating her semi-final appearance at this month's Australian Open and perhaps even going one better.

Li's run at last year's opening Grand Slam in Melbourne included victory over Caroline Wozniacki -- now world number one -- and Venus Williams before succumbing to eventual champion Serena Williams.

Compatriot Zheng Jie also reached the last four at the 2010 Open in a momentous time for Chinese tennis before bowing out to Justine Henin.

Li, who stepped up her preparation with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Australian Anastasia Rodionova in the opening round of the Sydney International on Monday, said national expectations were higher for her.

"I wish I can do better even this year," Li said. "Many people watch me as to how I am going for this year.

"I always do well in Australia. So, yeah, last year after I made the semi-final my life was a little bit changed."

Li said she felt in better shape for the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne next Monday, after solid winter training in China.

"Last year I played just after a knee operation, so I didn't know how I was going on the court," she said.

"Right now I am feeling more confident because I have winter training.

"Right now I don't have an injury. I can try 100 percent on court. I don't need to worry maybe about some problem for my knee or something."

The 28-year-old from Wuhan became the first Chinese player to break into the world's top 10 after her run in Melbourne and and went on to win her third Tour singles title by beating Maria Sharapova in Birmingham, England, in June.

"My first time in the top 10 was like a dream," said Li, who heads into 2011 ranked at 11.