Li makes early exit from Open

Updated: 2011-10-03 07:40

By Tang Zhe and Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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 Li makes early exit from Open

Li Na of China hits a return against Monica Niculescu of Romania during their first-round singles match at the China Open tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing on Sunday. Niculescu won 6-4, 6-0. Cui Meng / China Daily

China's French Open champion bundled out by Romanian, 6-4, 6-0

BEIJING - Li Na should have become stronger after a fruitful start to the season.

At the beginning of the year she, historically, became the first Asian to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in Melbourne

Then, she lifted the French Open trophy to become the first Grand Slam winner from this region in June.

However, Li appears to be suffering from a major hangover now, encapsulated by her first-round elimination at the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.

"I have just lost all confidence and I don't know what I can do on the court. I am feeling even to win one point is tough for me," said Li, who lost to Romanian Niculescu Monica 6-4, 6-0. "I tried to ask my coach to come and coach me, and I know he speaks exactly what's right, but I couldn't do it.

"(This is the) biggest tournament in China. Of course I want to do well. But sometimes if I really want to do well, more pressure comes to me. It's not only pressure I give myself, it's not for my team, it's from outside.," Li said.

"I think right now it's the end of the season, so it's a long break for me, like not only for the body, for the mind also. I think that is more important. So hopefully I can stand up again and prepare for next year," she said.

Li's victory in Paris in June not only sent the Chinese to her career peak, but also brought her huge fame and numerous sponsorships, which saw her busy with much sponsorships activities after the French Open.

However, the 29-year-old attributed her disappointing recent results to mounting pressure instead of distractions off the court.

Li makes early exit from Open

"When I walk on the court, I just play for myself, not for my sponsor. I am the only person, so I can't think about too much," Li said. "I feel it's even tougher than before I won a Grand Slam title because all my opponents see me in a different light. They are against you and they feel like they have nothing to lose.

"Before, when I was playing a Grand Slam champion, I would say, 'Okay, no pressure for me'. But right now it's turned around," she said.

"So, you know, now I think I need to train even harder than before. It's not easy for me, but if I want to do well, I have to do that."

Elsewhere in the singles draw, two Chinese young guns also failed to advance from the first round.

Zhang Shuai continued her streak of early exits at major tournaments, thrashed by Slovakian power hitter Dominika Cibulkova, 6-0, 6-2.

Although Zhang, who was eliminated by the same opponent in first round of the US Open, attributed her loss to unforced errors, her below-par skills both on serving and at the baseline were instrumental in her defeat.

Later, on the same court, China wild card Zheng Saisai failed to advance to the second round, losing to Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi, 6-0, 6-3. Zheng, 17, was the youngest player in the main draw.

Serbian former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic breezed past Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumn, 6-1, 6-1, in 68 minutes in her opening match before France's No 8 seed Marion Bartoli ousted Czech Iveta Benesova, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Meanwile, US Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia got by Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-0.

China Daily

(China Daily 10/03/2011 page12)