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Li Slides Past Medina, Suárez Wins

Li Na took out nemesis Anabel Medina Garrigues in straight sets in her first match. But across the way another Spaniard - the Spanish No.1, in fact - was grinding out a three set victory.

Published May 27, 2013 12:01

Li Slides Past Medina, Suárez Wins
Li Na

PARIS, France - Li Na prevailed against one of her toughest rivals at the French Open on Monday, starting and finishing fast to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in a tight two-setter in the first round.

Li hadn't had much success against Medina Garrigues in the past. She had a win against her, but it came when Medina Garrigues suffered an ankle injury and retired after three games - she had lost all four of her other previous meetings against the Spaniard. But this time the story was different, as the No.6-seeded Li was just too poised and too powerful, storming out to a 4-0 lead en route to taking the first set and winning six of eight games from 2-0 down in the second set to advance, 63 64.

Li and Medina Garrigues are two of the most accomplished clay court players on the tour, Medina Garrigues having more titles and more match wins on this surface than any active player; and Li, of course, has the biggest clay court tournament around on her résumé, winning right here in 2011.

Next up for Li is Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who also sent a Spaniard home, beating Lourdes Domínguez Lino, 64 61. Li has beaten Mattek-Sands in both previous meetings, both of which took place on clay.

While those Spaniards fell, the Spanish No.1 survived, as Carla Suárez Navarro rallied from a set down to beat Simona Halep, 36 62 62. Halep was a big challenge - she had won two of the pair's last three meetings, and she had reached the semifinals of Rome two weeks ago. But the No.20-seeded Suárez Navarro has also been playing some good ball this clay court season and made it through in three.

"We have 32 seeded players, but there are five or six players nobody wants to play against in the first round," Suárez Navarro said. "Today I lost the first set but I knew it wasn't over - I knew it could be a long match, and I fought back and played very well and very aggressively in the other two sets.

"Technically I felt good, but this match was mental. I had to be mentally strong in the third set."

Though she has had some excellent results on hardcourts - including the quarterfinals of the Aussie Open a few years ago - Suárez Navarro is at home on the clay, having made all five of her WTA finals on this surface. The Spaniard talked about the ups and downs you need to ride to succeed on it.

"Matches can be long and conditions can change - the temperature can change, sometimes it's damp, and sometimes it's even raining when you're playing a match and you can see those changes happen. But whatever happens you have to keep fighting and adjusting your game and believing in yourself.

"I'm very happy to make the second round. I hope I can be fresh and ready for my next match."

What are her goals this fortnight? "The draw is favorable for me and I should seize the opportunity, but I haven't set any specific goals. Here the matches are always very complicated, so I'm taking them one at a time. I have to be 100% focused and try to play my best and hopefully I can go further."

And what does the Spanish No.1 think of the World No.1? "Serena has won the last few tournaments and is playing really well, but this is a Grand Slam, so who knows? There's Azarenka, and Sharapova too. We'll see what Serena does. Right now she's the best player on paper, but maybe her focus or level could go down a little - there are still a few players who could have an exceptional performance."

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