Doha - Top seed Li Na's eagerly-awaited return to action after her stunning
Australian Open triumph last month has ended in a bewildering loss to a
qualifier in the third round of the Qatar Open on Thursday.
much-celebrated Chinese player appeared to have turned the match around
when she came from behind to lead 3-1 in the final set against Petra
Cetkowska, a Czech ranked outside the top 100, only to stumble to a 7-6
(7-2), 2-6, 6-4 defeat.
True, Cetkowska has solid attacking
ground-strokes which held up well against the forceful Li, and is making
her way back from injury having once been in the top 30. She also won
their last encounter, more than two years ago.
But Li had so many
chances to grab hold of the contest in the final set, holding points for
3-0, 4-1, and 5-3, and was infuriatingly unable to convert any of them.
also appeared to tire in a two-hour 46-minute tussle full of demanding
rallies and emotional twists, and her error ratio soared worryingly as
her attacks became less controlled.
"I don't think my performance was so bad. And she played very well," said Li.
"If I had continued coming to the net more it would have been better. And a defeat is not always so bad either.
"At least I fought and I got information from what happened. I will put that information straight into my training."
admitted that she had also tired, saying: "I somehow just tried to play
every single ball, and what has happened is so amazing.
down in the third set so I am very happy to have come back. This is a
tennis match so such things can always happen. it will give me a lot of
What made the result even more surprising is that Li
appeared to have benefited greatly from a highly-charged moment in the
second set when she might have gone a set and a break of serve down.
swung a ferocious backhand drive close to the baseline, and heard it
called out as a lunging Cetkowska managed only to get the edge of her
racket to it.
Had that decision stood she would have gone 1-2,
15-40 down, but her appeal to the video review system showed the ball
having touched the back edge of the line and the score became 30-all
Cetkowska protested strongly that the out call had come
before she had attempted to return the ball, that it had therefore
interfered with her stroke, and that the point should be replayed.
her case was not strong, and she was overruled, and after Li duly held
that service game, the Czech's standard dropped markedly.
seven games in a row, not only levelling the match at a set all, but
going a break up in the decider, and changing the ambience of the
But the 31-year-old could not maintain it, and appeared to flag physically.
ended up uncharacteristically defending in her next service game, and
could not hold, and then dropped another service game in which she
delivered a double fault.
Amazingly, four games later she was
unable to put the ball away from right on top of the net, with Cetkowska
making a great guess as to where the smash was going and returning with
a winning lob.
She then closed out the match as Li no longer had the capacity to take advantage.
was consolation for Chinese fans a little later, however, when Peng
Shuai became the first Chinese player to top a world ranking.
and her Taiwanese partner, Hsieh Su-wei, won a first-round doubles match
6-2, 6-4 against the Ukrainean-Russian combo of Irina Buryachok and
Vitalia Diatchenko, which is enough to take them above the world number
one pair, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani of Italy, at the end of the
Results from the fourth day of the WTA Qatar Open in Doha on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Petra Cetkovska (CZE) bt Li Na (CHN x1) 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4
Jelena Jankovic (SRB x5) bt Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) 6-1, 6-2