Li looks ahead after quit talk
A review of Wednesday's action in the women's singles at the Australian Open, with wins for Li Na and Serena Williams.
- Related Content
Li Na sent a teenage prodigy packing for the second successive round at the Australian Open and then discussed this week's revelations that she considered quitting the game before Wimbledon last year.
The Chinese player ended up having the most consistent season of her career in 2013 and finished the year ranked third in the world.
But in an interview with Melbourne newspaper The Age, Li revealed she told coach Carlos Rodriguez on the way to London from Eastbourne last summer that she wanted to retire.
She decided to play at Wimbledon and see how it went, and a run to the quarter-finals persuaded her to continue.
She said: "It wasn't about how I hit the ball on the court - it was about so many things off the court. But I was really happy I did well in Wimbledon, so that's why I've continued until now. Otherwise, I don't know where I would have been now."
Li cited negative media coverage in her home country, where she is a huge star, after she was knocked out in the second round of the French Open as her principal off-court frustration.
She said: "It's not about all the Chinese media. It's some of them.
"I could say something but what they would write down in the newspaper is totally wrong. They gave me a very tough time when I played the French Open, and it continued to Wimbledon."
Those days now appear far behind Li, who certainly deserves to be regarded as a title challenger after two final appearances in Melbourne, most recently last year when she lost to Victoria Azarenka.
The fourth seed was first up on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday against 16-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic, having knocked out another 16-year-old, Croatian Ana Konjuh, in the first round.
Li had little trouble against Konjuh and it appeared it would be the same again but Bencic gave notice of just what a talent she is by fighting all the way before going down 6-0 7-6 (7/5).
Bencic is coached by Melanie Molitor, the mother and former coach of Martina Hingis, and Li said: "She played exactly like Martina Hingis.
"She gave me a very tough time at the end of the second set. But I was really happy in the end I could use my experience to win the match.
"If she plays more tournaments on the tour, for sure she would be very good."
Bencic beat 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm in round one for her first victory in the main draw at a grand slam, and she loved playing on the big stage.
"It was an amazing feeling," she said. "I always watched on TV and I always said I wanted to play there and today I played there."
World number one Serena Williams wasted little energy in winning her second-round match 6-1 6-2 against Serbia's Vesna Dolonc.
Temperatures again hit 40 degrees Celsius, and Williams said: "It was tough conditions out there. I think it keeps getting hotter.
"I'm just drinking a lot, making sure I stay hydrated. I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night paranoid. I just wanted to stay hydrated.
"The last thing I want to do is to cramp in this weather. It can happen so easily."
A number of players criticised the decision to keep playing through the worst of the heat on Tuesday, with Canadian Frank Dancevic branding it "inhumane" after he blacked out on court.
Williams said: "I think the conditions in my match were okay. I wasn't here yesterday. I heard they were a little bit extreme. I didn't really even go outside yesterday."
Next up the American meets 31st seed Daniela Hantuchova, who needed more than three hours to see off Karolina Pliskova 6-3 3-6 12-10.
Great Australian hope Sam Stosur delighted the night session crowd on Rod Laver by thrashing Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2 6-0 and will next meet 14th seed Ana Ivanovic in the standout match of the third round.
Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki said she had been beaten by the heat after a surprise 2-6 6-2 6-2 loss to Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Maria Sharapova opens proceedings on Laver on Thursday against Italy's Karin Knapp while defending champion Victoria Azarenka plays in the night session against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.