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Li Na has big hopes for Australian summer
Darren Walton
18:41 AEST Mon Jan 7 2013

A year after suffering a heartbreaking Melbourne Park meltdown, Chinese trailblazer Li Na has returned to Australia seeking grand slam redemption.

Li broke down in tears last January after throwing away an Australian Open quarter-final spot in one of the lowlights of her historic career.

China's first and only grand slam singles champion dramatically squandered four consecutive match points from 6-2 up in the second-set tiebreaker against Kim Clijsters.

But, after overcoming jet lag to reach the second round of the Sydney International on Monday with a 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win over American Christina McHale, Li was only looking ahead with high hopes for Melbourne and beyond.

"I really want to be like top three or win another grand slam," said the world No.6 and 2011 French Open champion.

Hence why, at 30 and previously and successfully coached by her husband Jiang Shan, Li linked up with esteemed Spanish mentor Carlos Rodriguez last August and immediately overhauled her style.

"He was (keen to) change my technique a lot, like serve, like forehand," Li said of Justine Henin's former long-time coach.

"So his training is hard. I think it's not bad. I had a very good beginning of the year.

"Before we trained he was telling me, `If you want one more step or want to be even better, you have to change something'.

"I agree, because if I didn't change maybe I still can stay like top 10, 20, but I couldn't go up."

Li at times looked anything but top 10 or the winner of last week's season-opening event in Shenzhen as she struggled to find her rhythm against McHale.

But the fourth seed offered some rather valid excuses having only arrived in the country on Sunday.

"In China, it was like five, six degrees, but here it's over 30," she said.

"And the jet lag, time change I was feeling today was very tough. I was feeling my legs like 200 kilos. I couldn't move.

"Today is really not for technique, it's challenging for your mind to show how strong you are on the court."

The 2011 Sydney champion next faces Japanese qualifier Ayumi Morita, a 1-6 6-3 6-3 winner over Daniela Hantuchova.


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