Relief for Li after thrashing Schiavone


China’s Li Na was a relieved woman Sunday after thrashing her fellow ex-French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the China Open’s first round — a year after a humiliating defeat at the same stage.
Asia’s top women’s player, who needs a strong showing this week to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul next month, dominated the match to win 6-2, 6-3. A year ago Li, after beating defending champion Schiavone in Paris to become Asia’s first singles Grand Slam winner, had slumped to an embarrassing straight-sets defeat to Romania’s Monica Niculescu in front of her home fans.
But on Sunday Li’s quick, aggressive style had Schiavone on the back foot right from the start and the pressure got to the Italian, who hit nine double faults in the first set and another three in the second.
“I would like to say thanks to the fans who came to the court to support me,” said Li. “I was feeling much better this year than last and at least I have won one match.”
Li, who has never won the China Open, denied she felt the pressure of expectation that comes with playing at home.
“I don’t give in to too much pressure, because after all you never know how your performance is going to be,” she said. “You don’t know the performance of the opponent either.” “What really matters is you can experience the whole match and concentrate.” However the road ahead does not get any easier for Li, who will now play Pan Pacific Open winner Nadia Petrova in the next round.
Earlier, Britain’s Laura Robson took another step forward in her quest to break into the top 50 when she battled past an opponent more than twice her age.
The world number 57, who reached the final of the Guangzhou Open just over a week ago, continued her Asian adventure by defeating Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4, 6-4 to ease into the second round of the Premier Mandatory event.
But it was far from plain sailing for the 18-year-old Robson, who fought back brilliantly from three games down in the first set, winning five without reply against Date-Krumm, 42, as youth ultimately overpowered experience. “I’m feeling confident when I play at the moment. Even when I’m not playing my best like I was today I still feel that I am able to win matches,” Robson told AFP. Date-Krumm raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set as Robson struggled with her serve and made a number of unforced errors. But several big forehands gave the young Briton confidence and the Japanese was no match for Robson’s power. Robson, who ended last year ranked 131st, took the second set with relative ease, maintaining her recent momentum.
The mixed doubles silver medallist at the London Olympics has shot up the world rankings this year, in large part due to a fourth-round appearance at the US Open and her exploits in Guangzhou, and now has the top 50 in her sights. “After this week I should be pretty close,” she said. “I’ve got to keep winning here for sure and do well in Osaka (next week) to have a chance.”