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Li ready for grudge match against Pole Radwanska

Updated: 2013-01-21 07:58
By Sun Xiaochen in Melbourne, Australia ( China Daily)

 Li ready for grudge match against Pole Radwanska

Li Na of China celebrates during her match against Julia Goerges of Germany at the Australian Open on Sunday. Li beat the 18th-seeded German 7-6 (6), 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals. Toby Melville / Reuters

So far so good for Li Na in the first month of the new tennis season, but she has the chance to make it even better.

After defeating German Julia Goerges in the fourth round at the Australian Open on Sunday, Li reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time since her 2011 French Open victory and, in the process, booked a rematch with Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat her in the semis in Sydney 11 days ago.

A victory against the Pole would make up for the only blemish on Li's resume this year, but the Chinese ace remains cautious.

"I am looking forward to playing her again. She is a smart player. Although she doesn't boast the size and power that most western girls have, she is still dangerous with an all-round skill set," Li said after beating Goerges, 7-6 (6), 6-1.

While most media attributed Li's Sydney loss to fatigue after playing eight matches in nine days, she makes no such excuses.

Li ready for grudge match against Pole Radwanska

"A loss is a loss, you can't always make excuses for yourself. I should have prepared better before that match, but I didn't pay enough focus or tune up well."

Both combatants have reached the quarters without dropping a set and Li and Radwanska are riding great waves of momentum in Melbourne.

"We have played many times in the last couple of months. It's always tough playing against her," the Polish world No 4 said after outperforming Serbian 13th seed Ana Ivanovic, 6-2, 6-4, in her fourth-round battle.

"Li's a consistent player. I think I really have to play aggressively against her, definitely serve well and play my 100 percent best tennis. Otherwise, I am not going to win for sure," said Radwanska, who lags behind 4-5 in their head-to-head record.

Boasting a stronger mental approach due to new coach Carlos Rodriguez's help, Li came back from 5-6 down in a gripping first-set tiebreak to close out the match with composure in 86 minutes.

Li ready for grudge match against Pole Radwanska

When an on-court interviewer asked her how she had managed to turn the match around, she looked puzzled. "I changed nothing," she said.

The on-court host then tried to take another path, asking how would she approach her quarterfinal against Radwanska. Li turned around to check the whereabouts of her coach and then shrugged her shoulders.

"Ah, coach has gone to watch their match (Radwanska and Ivanovic)," she said. "It's time for him to do his job now."

Apart from scouting opponents, Li said the Argentine had done a good job of rekindling her self-confidence.

"To be honest, it's been a long, grinding period for me since the 2011 French Open. It's not my opponents who have beaten me up over the past year and a half, it's been me.

"Now, I want a fresh start and achieve my goal (to crack top three) with a new team."


(China Daily 01/21/2013 page24)