BEIJING, China - The odds seemed stacked against her but Li Na lifted her game in a big way in front of her home crowd on Tuesday afternoon, defeating Nadia Petrova to move into the third round of the China Open, 61 62.
Not only had Petrova just won Tokyo, she had also beaten Li in all six of their career meetings, five of them in straight sets. But the two players hadn't played in four years and Li wasn't ranked higher than No.30 in any of those meetings - and that title run in Tokyo may have taken some wind out of Petrova's sails.
"It was a tough draw to play Li Na at home," Petrova said. "I also played so many matches and spent so many hours on the court in Tokyo, so not only was I a bit fatigued, I had a slight injury in my leg. So today was pretty difficult.
"She played very fast and moved me around, and after a couple of games I started feeling my leg worse and worse, and I couldn't really move to the sides or corners well. I couldn't adjust well and just felt a little bit slow today."
On the other side of the net, however, Li played almost flawlessly, particularly on serve: she held seven of her eight service games routinely, and though she was broken in the other one, it took Petrova eight break points to do it.
Li was asked about overturning the head-to-head. "That's the charm of tennis, that every day you can take on new challenges - you can lose to someone a lot of times but that doesn't mean it's the end. You never know what will happen.
"I'm very happy to see I've made progress in this match-up."
Li was also asked about her rapport with her coach, Carlos Rodriguez. "I have to say he's a really good coach. He's not only teaching me how to play better tennis, he's teaching me how to be on the court. Before I would explode easily on the court; I think I've changed a lot since we've started working together."
Next up for the No.7-seeded Li is another unseeded player, but just as familiar a player - her fellow Chinese, Peng Shuai. And while Li is ahead in that head-to-head series, 3-1, the one loss actually came in their last meeting.
The match will, however, guarantee one Chinese in the last eight.
"Tennis in China is getting better, everyone can see that," Li said. "So many children are picking up the tennis racquet. It's good for Chinese tennis both of us can make the third round and that one of us will be in the fourth round."
No.9 seed Marion Bartoli followed Li into the third round with a 64 63 win over Japanese qualifier Ayumi Morita, a rare match-up between two players who hit with both hands off both sides. Bartoli has dominated her fellow two-hander over the years though, now a perfect 8-0 in their career head-to-head series.
Other early winners as the second round continued on Tuesday were Jelena Jankovic, who improved to 5-0 against Monica Niculescu with a 62 61 win; Romina Oprandi, who won eight straight games from 4-5 in the first set en route to a 75 62 victory over Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi; and Lourdes Domínguez Lino, who won an all-qualifier battle with Laura Robson, 75 63.