Australian Open — Li Na Advances into Round of 16 Fifth Year in a Row

MELBOURNE, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — Two-time finalist Li Na saved a match point before clawing back to record a three-set victory over Czech Lucie Safarova in the third round of the Australian Open here on Friday.

The Chinese fourth seed, a finalist in 2011 and last year, won 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 in two and a half hours to set up a clash with Russian 22nd seed Ekaterina Makarova for a place in the quarter-finals.
Li Na of China hits a return to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during their women’s singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 15, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Li served inconsistently and failed to take advantage of key break-point chances for much of the first two sets.

But she dominated the tiebreaker, then broke the 24th-seeded Safarova in the eighth game of the deciding set before serving out.

“In the beginning she played very nice, very good and it was tough to find any rhythm,” Li said of her opponent.

“I’m happy I was able to fight and win the match. I just tried to play at the baseline and move the ball around the court.”

The following is some background info about Li Na according to wikipedia.

Li Na was born on February 26, 1982, in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Her father Li Shengpeng (李盛鹏) was a professional badminton player and later worked as a sales rep for a Wuhan based company. He died from a rare cardiovascular disease when Li Na was 14.

At age six, Li Na started playing badminton, following her father’s footsteps. Just before she turned eight, Li made the transition from badminton to tennis when she and her parents were convinced by coach Xia Xiyao of the Wuhan youth tennis club that this would be the right career move for her. Li joined China’s National Tennis Team in 1997. In the following year, Li, sponsored by Nike, went to John Newcombe Academy in Texas to study tennis. She studied there for 10 months and returned to China. Li turned professional in 1999 at age sixteen.

At the end of 2002, Li left the national tennis team to study part-time at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2009. The Chinese media cited various reasons for this. Some reported that the relationship between her and her teammate, future husband Jiang Shan (姜山), was opposed by the national team’s management, some reported that her coach Yu Liqiao (余丽桥) was too strict and demanding, while other reports claimed that her request for a personal coach did not go through.

However, Li returned to the national team in 2004. Jiang Shan married Li on January 27, 2006 and became her personal coach. Li quit the national team as well as the state-run sports system in 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players. This change was called “Fly Alone” (单飞) by Chinese media. As a result, Li had the freedom to pick her own coaching staff but she would be responsible for the cost of travel, training and coaching. She could keep more of her winnings, with only 8 to 12 percent of her winnings go to the Chinese Tennis Association as opposed to 65 percent previously.