MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Li Na knows how lucky she is to play another round at the Australian Open after facing match point against hard-hitting Lucie Safarova on Friday.
"I think five centimeters saved my tournament," she said, indicating with her fingers how close Safarova's shot at break point in the second set had been to sending her home. "If she hit in, I think, the whole team is on the way to the airport."
The fourth-seeded Li narrowly avoided being the highest-seeded casualty on the women's side of the tournament, saving the only match point she faced before rallying to beat her Czech opponent, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3, in a 2½-hour battle in the stifling heat at Hisense Arena.
Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was out-of-sorts in the early going, losing the first set in 27 minutes after making 18 unforced errors to only two winners.
Her serve was under pressure the entire second set, as well. Safarova broke her twice to take a 5-3 lead, and after failing to serve it out, got to match point on Li's serve in the 12th game.
Li's coach, Carlos Rodriguez, was so frustrated at one point, he pointed to his head and mouthed to her emphatically, "Think!" She said the admonition was intended to help her focus better at critical times.