DOHA, Qatar - Regardless of what happens this week, she will set a new career-high of No.2 in the world next week - but not one to just sit back and let things happen, Li Na battled her way through a very tricky opening match against Magdalena Rybarikova at the Qatar Total Open on Wednesday.
Things didn't look tricky early on, as Li raced out of the blocks with 20 of the first 25 points of the match, building a 5-0 lead in about 20 minutes. After grinding through two lengthy games to take the set, 6-1, she looked headed for a straight set win as she broke for 3-2 in the second set.
But there's a reason Rybarikova won the pair's only previous meeting, and has three Top 10 wins to her name too - the Slovak emptied the bucket in the second set, mixing spins in with her flat strokes and offsetting Li's power game, eventually breaking one last time to take the 62-minute set, 7-5.
The No.1-seeded Li took complete control from there though, breaking back in the first game of the third and never really looking back, finishing it off after two hours and 13 minutes, 61 57 62.
"It's always exciting and nervous to play your first match back," Li said. "Also, she already played one match so she knew how the court was feeling. She was playing very well. It was very tough.
"But nobody said you have to win in two sets or lose in two sets. This is why we play best of three sets. Everyone has their chance - this is tennis. I was just really happy I could win in the end."
Li was asked in her press conference about her quick - and very aggressive - start to the match.
"This is one of the ways I've improved a lot - getting old, you can't stay on the court a long time!" she joked. "But you have to finish as quickly as you can. I was an aggressive player already, but working with Carlos, I'm becoming even more aggressive now. More calm, more smart and more tough."
On a completely different note, the World No.3 was also asked about Tuesday's National Sports Day.
"It's a pretty good idea," she said. "It's not about how good you are, but that you try your best in whatever sport you like. I saw so many children here and I think they really enjoyed it. Why not?"
Li is now 13-0 on the season, going 5-0 to win Shenzhen, 7-0 to win the Australian Open and 1-0 so far here in Doha. On next Monday's rankings she will rise from No.3 in the world to No.2, raising the bar on her own record for highest-ranked Asian player, male or female, in the history of the sport.