Australian Open

I couldn't breathe - Li

2012-01-16 10:03
Li Na (AP)

Melbourne - China's Li Na complained she could hardly breathe in stifling conditions at the Australian Open after coming through a tough first match 6-3, 6-1 against Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan.

Fifth-seeded Li, the reigning French Open champion and runner-up to Kim Clijsters in Melbourne last year, overcame the dangerous Pervak in 69 minutes but afterwards said soaring temperatures had made for a difficult day.

"It's not easy," said Li, who last week reached the final of the Sydney International.

"I'm not used to it. I came down from Sydney, but there it was only like 20 degrees. It was really tough today."

"I was feeling at the end of the first set really the heat on the court. Also I was feeling no air. I couldn't breathe. Like I was feeling like, what's going on?" she added.

Pervak matched Li for much of the first set as the two players traded booming ground strokes, but Li always looked more threatening and drew first blood when she broke to go to 4-2, only to surrender a break in the next game.

But Li, 29, then stepped up to break the world number 40 straight back, winning five games in a row to take the first set and open a 3-0 lead in the second.

Pervak stemmed the tide briefly when she broke Li to make it 3-1, but it was only a temporary reprieve as the world number six raced away with the match in the Hisense Arena.

Li said she was happy with her form coming into the year's first grand slam.

"I was happy with what I was doing at the Hopman Cup and Sydney. Yeah, I think I just continue," she added.

The Chinese player says she has rediscovered her hunger after a major slump following her breakthrough French Open win last year, when she became the first Asian to win a grand slam singles title.

Li has a relatively smooth path until the fourth round, where she faces a possible 2011 final rematch against Clijsters.

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