Thursday, February 29, 2024

Li Na stunned in Beijing opener

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Beijing: French Open champion Li Na was humiliated in front of home fans on Sunday, crashing out in the first round of the China Open in straight sets to unheralded Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu.

Li’s 6-4, 6-0 defeat was the second straight first round exit round for the 29-year-old, who made history as the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles title in Paris in June.

The world number five dropped serve six times against Niculescu, slipping to defeat in just under 90 minutes in front of stunned home fans in the Chinese capital.

“I’ve just lost all confidence now,” said the fourth seed. “I don’t know what I can do. Even winning one point is tough for me.”

“For me it seems like the end of the season right now. I need a long break – for the body and the mind,” said the player who is back with her husband as coach after a trial with Dane Michael Mortensen.

“Hopefuly I can start again and prepare for next year,” she said. Niculescu, ranked a lowly 58th, was playing Li, whose win in Paris catapulted her to superstar status in China, for the first time.

Li, whose best result at the China Open was a semi-final showing last year, also lost in the first round of the US Open against another Romanian, Simona Halep.

Since her Paris success she has won just five matches.

There was further disappointment for the Chinese fans as Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia ended the hopes of Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-2 and Kaia Kanepi of Estonia defeated Zheng Saisai 6-0, 6-3.

Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 13th, put out qualifier Barbora Zahlavova Strycov 7-5, 6-4, while Germany’s Sabine Lisicki advanced into the second round as Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-2.

Former world number one Ana Ivanovic of Serbia defeated Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-1, 6-1 and American qualifier Christina McHale put out Ayumi Morita of Japan 6-2, 0-6, 6-3.

2010 quarter-finalist Ivanovic was pleased to return, playing in a new stadium. “I really enjoy competing here and have so many memories. And I played quite well today, which I’m very pleased with.” (AFP)

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