News24

Li back on form with win

2012-01-03 13:31

Perth - Chinese star Li Na showed she had put her post-French Open slump firmly behind her with a commanding win over Spain's Annabel Medina Garrigues at the mixed teams Hopman Cup on Tuesday.

Having come from a set down to dispose of world number nine Marion Bartoli on the opening day of the tournament, the world number five lived up to her claim after that win that she was "back" by thrashing the 27th-ranked Medina Garrigues, 6-3, 6-1, despite China losing the tie to the Spanish 2-1.

Li, 29, said an intensive off-season training regime in Munich had helped her rebound from a disappointing finish to 2012.

"After winter training I was feeling better for the season," she said.

"After French Open I didn't do well.

"I had four weeks (in Munich), no photo shoots, no interviews, just very tough training.

"Mostly for fitness, I want to keep healthy for whole season, I am not young any more and do not have time to waste," she said.

"I have to focus on every tournament and every second and that is why I stayed in Munich for such a long time."

Li had not beaten Medina Garrigues in four previous meetings, although the last of those encounters was back in 2008, but she completely dismantled the Spaniard in an impressive performance ahead of this month's Australian Open.

Medina Garrigues grew visibly frustrated as she struggled to counter the consistently brilliant groundstrokes of Li, who hit 18 forehand winners.

After the win over Bartoli on Saturday, Li admitted she had struggled to cope with her status as China's first Grand Slam champion in the latter stages of 2012, winning just seven of the 16 matches she played after her breakthrough French Open triumph.

Li bowed out in the second round at Wimbledon and in the first round at the US Open, but her rejuvenated early season form bodes well as she attempts to replicate her appearance in the final at last year's Australian Open.

She is now again being coached by her husband, Jiang Shan, who was in charge during her run at Melbourne but was relegated to the role of hitting partner during her French Open success, when Michael Mortensen took over as coach.

Mortenson had replaced Jiang after Li failed to win a match in her next four tournaments following last year's Australian Open.

Unfortunately for Li, the win over Medina Garrigues was not enough to help the Chinese beat the Spanish, with Fernando Verdasco beating Li's team-mate Wu Di in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to level the tie, before the Spanish claimed the tie with an emphatic 6-0, 6-2 win in the deciding mixed doubles.

Having lost both their ties, the Chinese have no chance of reaching Saturday's final.

AFP