Bartoli Back From The Brink, Li Breaks Curse
Published June 14, 2011 12:00
EASTBOURNE, England - In 2009, Svetlana Kuznetsova did it; in 2010, Francesca Schiavone did it. But Li Na defied the dubious French Open champion's curse on Tuesday, overcoming the surface transition and winning her first match at the $618,000 AEGON International in Eastbourne.
The last two French Open champions both fell in the first round of the Premier-level event but Li, seeded No.2 this week, would not go the same way, though she fought for two hours to beat Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek, 75 64.
"The first match on grass is always tough. I was just thinking of how to move on the court, because the movement is so much different," Li said. "After the French Open I was focusing on just my next match, and now I finally won!"
Li reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in 2006 and repeated the feat in 2010. "For me the most important thing now is preparing for Wimbledon. This week I'm just trying to get used to the grass," the 29-year-old added. "To me, Wimbledon is the biggest of the Grand Slams. I really want to do well there. I hope I can go far but I'm just trying to do my best."
Next up for Li will be Daniela Hantuchova, who fired up six aces to beat another Chinese player, Zheng Jie, 64 64. Hantuchova has won 11 of her last 14 matches, a stretch that includes a win over reigning world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki at Roland Garros and a run to the Birmingham final last week.
Other seeds moving on were No.4 seed Schiavone, who saved three set points in the first set tie-break and beat Kaia Kanepi, 76(7) 61; and No.6 seed Marion Bartoli, who rallied from 5-3 down in the third set and fended off a match point down 6-5 in the tie-break to beat Lucie Safarova, 63 36 76(7).
Other winners on Day 2 were Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Bojana Jovanovski and Elena Baltacha. Jovanovski had the biggest win of the group, saving five set points in the first set tie-break to beat the highest-ranked teenager in the world, No.14-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 76(9) 64.