SHENZHEN, China - Chinese icon Li Na made a winning start to her 2013 campaign on New Year's Day, toughing out a close first set then flying through the second set to move through to the second round of the inaugural, International-level Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open.
Li, who is coming off her first two Top 10 seasons - she finished 2011 at No.5 and 2012 at No.7 - was even at 3-all first set with Mandy Minella in her first match of 2013 on Tuesday when she got the first break of the match to lead 4-3. After a few more holds of serve Li had tucked away the first set, 6-4, then she completely rolled through the second set in 26 minutes to complete a 64 60 victory.
"It was my first time playing her - I tried to find information beforehand but I didn't get much," Li said. "After the first set I knew a bit better how to play her, and so the second set was much better for me."
Li, who is used to playing in Australia before the Australian Open, talked about the differences between playing there and in Shenzhen, in front of her Chinese fans. "It's a bit colder here than in Australia, but as a professional tennis player you have to adapt to all kinds of weather, no matter if you like it or not. And I'm very happy to play in Shenzhen, so my fans and friends can come on site and cheer me on."
What did the World No.7 work on in the off-season? "We tried some new strategies and new skills in our training in the off-season. The first matches of the year are the best time to test whether this training in the off-season will work well or not. I'm glad I was able to have the courage to try new things."
And any New Year's Resolutions? "I just want to play tennis, healthily and happily."
While Li was getting through her first round match, another five second round matches were taking the courts, with seeded players in all of them - and there were mixed results. No.5 seed Klara Zakopalova, No.6 seed Peng Shuai and No.8 seed Bojana Jovanovski all won through, but No.4 seed Hsieh Su-Wei fell to Annika Beck, 63 60, while No.7 seed Laura Robson lost to Monica Niculescu, 62 63.
"I was very solid," Niculescu said. "There were some important moments in the second set - instead of 3-1 for her, I made it 2-all. I'm really happy about my serve and movement on the court too."
"I don't think I played that badly, but I was a little bit impatient sometimes," Robson said. "It's tough, because most of us haven't played in at least a month. So it's a bit hard to get back into it."
Beck, one of the WTA's newest Top 100 players, reached her first WTA quarterfinal.
The only other match of the day saw Chinese lucky loser Zhou Yi-Miao move through. Zhou was a late replacement for Jelena Jankovic, the No.3 seed who had to pull out due to a viral illness.