Li makes coach happy with Open romp


Li Na of China smiles following her win over Katerina Makarova of Russia during their women's singles match at the Australian Open. Photo - AFP

Melbourne: Li Na's coach Carlos Rodriguez was so annoyed with the way she played in the Australian Open third round that the Chinese star knew she had to step it up on Sunday.

The world number four did just that, smashing Russia's Ekaterina Makarova in less than an hour to reach the quarterfinals where she will face Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

The two-time Melbourne finalist and 2011 French Open winner was rarely extended in the 59 minute 6-2, 6-0 win to put her just two matches from her third Melbourne decider.

Three more victories will end her jinx at the season's opening Grand Slam.

The 31-year-old led the 2011 final before losing to Kim Clijsters, and last year she was ahead against
Victoria Azarenka but dramatically twice rolled her ankle and briefly blacked out.

But Li almost didn't make the fourth round this year after a first-set meltdown against Lucie Safarova on Friday.

She had to rally through a tiebreak and save a match point, which did not go down well with Rodriguez, the former mentor of Belgian great Justine Henin.

"I think yesterday I did a lot of practice because I really made Carlos sad two days ago during the match," she said, explaining her improved performance against Makarova.

"Normally every match we will talk after the match, but you could see his face. Really unhappy. Even yesterday... for sure he was so angry.

"So, yeah, I try a lot yesterday and also today in the match. But at least today I think made him a little bit happier. Feel much better."

Li's all-court game was too much for Makarova, and she broke in the third game when the Russian 22nd seed failed to clear the net with a forehand drop shot.

After fighting off break points in the fifth game, she broke again for 5-2 and then sealed the first set with an emphatic backhand winner.

She did not ease up in the second set, breaking immediately with a forehand at the net and again with a sizzling cross-court backhand to go 3-0 up.

The finish line was in sight but Li had to refocus after conceding two break points in the following game, and she aggressively forced two errors from Makarova to maintain her advantage.

Another break for Li made it 5-0 and she finished Makarova off in stylish fashion, coming in to the net and burying a backhand volley deep in the left corner.

Li will next play Pennetta, who at 31 is one day older than the Chinese player, with both turning 32 next month.

"At least she's one day older than me, so I'll play an older player," said Li, adding that she considers Pennetta a friend.

"Of course we talk a lot, because it's very tough to stay in the tour like over 10 years. If you see the same player you feel more friendly."

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