After a scrappy third round match two days ago, Li Na hit the practice courts hard to fine tune her game again. And it really paid off - she cruised past Ekaterina Makarova in 59 minutes on Sunday.
WTA Staff

MELBOURNE, Australia - Li Na put a messy third round match behind her in a big way, storming past Ekaterina Makarova in under an hour to move through to the quarters of the Australian Open.

Li had all kinds of trouble against No.26 seed Lucie Safarova in the previous round, rallying from 61 53 down and even saving a match point later in the set. But the No.4-seeded Li survived that one, and she looked like she was playing on a new breath of life against Makarova, inching ahead 3-2 early on then reeling off nine games in a row to finish the No.22-seeded Russian off in just 59 minutes, 62 60.

"After the tough match two days ago I practiced a lot, because I think I really made my coach Carlos sad with that match," Li said. "I could tell he was really unhappy. Even yesterday I knew if I didn't do something well he would be upset. So I tried a lot yesterday in practice and also in the match today.

"I think I made him a bit happier today."

As the match went on, Li looked more relaxed. And on match point, the Chinese implemented something she's been working on a lot - she charged the net and put away a backhand volley.

"I have to be relaxed on the court," Li said. "If I get nervous or tired, I'll start thinking too much and I'll forget what I should do on the court. Also I can't think too much before the match about what my opponent's going to do, because I'll forget the most important things I should do on the court."

Li has now reached the quarterfinals or better at the Australian Open four times - the most for her at any Grand Slam. Awaiting her next is No.28 seed Flavia Pennetta - they are tied 2-2 head-to-head.

"It's been at least two years we didn't play, and time can change everything. But at least she's one day older than me, so I don't have to play a younger player again!" Li joked in her press conference.

"For sure it will be a tough match though. She had an injury and at the US Open she started playing really well again, and she has continued that here. It's never easy - especially at a Grand Slam."

With years playing on the tour alongside each other, do Li and Pennetta have a good relationship?

"Of course we talk a lot," Li said. "It's very tough to stay on the tour for over 10 years, so if you see the same player a lot it feels more friendly. Because now the younger players are coming more and more."

Li's press conference was going on as Ana Ivanovic's stunner over Serena Williams was going on on Rod Laver Arena - but while that obviously opens the draw for Li, she's only focused on her next one.

"I think I watched the second set, a couple of games from the second set, when I finished my cool down and went back to the locker room," Li said. "After that I didn't see any of it. Is she down?"

Li was told Williams was down 5-2 in the third set - then asked if she had any comment.

"No, because they are not my next opponent," she said.