China's Li Na schools 16-year-old girls' champ
China's Li Na stormed into the Australian Open second round Monday with a straight-sets demolition of junior champion Ana Konjuh as she set about ending her tournament jinx.sports Updated: Jan 13, 2014 11:16 IST
China's Li Na stormed into the Australian Open second round Monday with a straight-sets demolition of junior champion Ana Konjuh as she set about ending her tournament jinx.
The likeable world number four, who revealed in a newspaper interview Monday that she almost quit last year, blasted past the Croatian qualifier 6-2, 6-0.
She admitted she knew virtually nothing about her 16-year-old opponent ahead of the clash and needed a game or two to work her out.
"I tried to find a match on YouTube, so could watch a couple of games. It was still a little bit strange in the beginning of the match because I really didn't know the way exactly how she played on the court," she said.
"I always love coming to Melbourne." Li added. "I'm feeling good and feeling healthy."
Li has made the final at Melbourne Park twice before and led both times before being overcome by Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year.
Last year was particularly painful for the crowd favourite, who rolled her ankle in the final and then went down on it a second time and banged her head so hard that she blacked out.
She lost to Azarenka but won a new set of fans.
She was greeted warmly on Hisense Arena Monday and had little trouble against Konjuh, who was making her Grand Slam debut.
Li rattled through the first set, warming to her task as she gave the teenager, who won the girls' singles title at Melbourne last year, a tennis lesson.
The second set was a formality with Konjuh almost a bystander.
It was an impressive start for Li, who is in form after reaching the season-ending WTA Championships final last year and starting 2014 with victory at the Shenzhen Open.
But she would not have been competing at all if she had gone through with a threat to quit last year.
The charismatic Chinese told the Melbourne Age that she almost didn't play Wimbledon after a second round defeat at Roland Garros and a quarter-final loss at Eastbourne.
"When we were arriving in Wimbledon I said to (coach) Carlos (Rodriguez) 'Eh Carlos, look I want to retire'", Li said.
She said Rodriguez, the career-long mentor of former Belgian great Justine Henin, told her to give Wimbledon and go and decide her future afterwards. She made the last eight, which convinced her to keep going.
She is again enjoying life and while admitting she one day wants children, retirement thoughts are on hold.
"I will continue until maybe one day I say 'Oh, my body couldn't handle it more," she told the newspaper.
On the subject of children, she added: "At least two. One each."
Li, who turns 32 next month and faces a potential semi-final against Serena Williams, next plays another qualifier in Swiss Belinda Bencic, who beat Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm.
First Published: Jan 13, 2014 11:05 IST