Li Loves The Lefties, Takes Down Kerber

In the last five years, Li Na is .639 against right-handers and now .872 against left-handers.

Published October 25, 2012 12:00

Li Loves The Lefties, Takes Down Kerber
Li Na, Angelique Kerber

ISTANBUL, Turkey - It could be her big crosscourt forehands or her sharp returning off the backhand, but whatever it is Li Na loves the lefties, and on Thursday she continued her domination of Angelique Kerber to get on the board at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012.

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After a slow start to the match, falling behind 4-2 in the opening set, Li conjured up some of her best tennis - the kind of tennis that took her to the French Open title and all the way up to No.4 in the world at one point - winning nine of the next 10 games to build a seemingly insurmountable 64 51 lead.

Kerber made a last stand, breaking then holding to close the gap to 64 53, but Li put together one last perfect service game to close it out, 64 63, blasting a big ace out wide on the ad side to finish it off. It was the Chinese No.1's fourth love hold in 10 service games in the one-hour, 25-minute contest.

"I had my first match yesterday but felt much, much better today - I was more focused and concentrated on the court," Li said. "Angelique is very good in defense. My coach, Carlos, was telling me before the match to use more topspin and open the court - I knew I had to change the space to win today."

Li improved to 6-1 against Kerber, a typical head-to-head record against a lefty for her: in the last five years Li has done far, far better against lefties than against righties, going 34-5 against lefties since the start of 2008 (a 6.8 to 1 ratio) and 140-79 against righties since the start of 2008 (a 1.8 to 1 ratio).

Li's only five losses to lefties since the start of 2008 came to Sybille Bammer (Rome in 2009), Petra Kvitova (Madrid in 2011), Kerber (Indian Wells in 2012), Kvitova again (Montréal in 2012) and Laura Robson (US Open in 2012). And the Chinese pushed three of those five losses to three sets, as well.

Li plays Victoria Azarenka in her final round robin match on Friday, the winner of which will qualify for the semifinals and the loser of which will not.

"It will be a tough match - she's No.1 in the world and has been doing an amazing job this year," Li said. "I will try my best tomorrow and I hope I play the same like today, hitting the ball well and making just a few mistakes."

Li is 2-6 against World No.1s, the wins coming against Serena Williams at Stuttgart in 2008 and Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open in 2011 (and of the six losses, three came to Williams, one came to Lindsay Davenport, one came to Dinara Safina and the other came to Azarenka).

Meanwhile, Kerber's WTA Championships debut has come to an end - she fell to 0-3 in round robin play and won't advance. But the German, who has had an absolute breakthrough season, looked on the bright side afterwards.

"It was very nice to be here - I really enjoyed my week and also my three matches," Kerber said. "I take a lot of experience from here and I think it will bring me to another level next year, so I'm really happy I was part of the WTA Championships. And the organization and the crowd were unbelievable."

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