Li Na

Li Na into quarter-finals of the US Open

National hero fights off attack of nerves and tiredness to reach quarter-finals of US Open and match best performance in New York

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 5:34am

Li Na made a triumphant night-time debut at the US Open with an impressive rout of former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic to reach the quarter-finals and match her best New York result.

But Li said she would rather be playing in the day time.

The Chinese fifth seed and 2011 French Open champion, needed only 57 minutes to defeat Serbian ninth seed Jankovic 6-3, 6-0 and book a last-eight date against Russian 24th seed Ekaterina Makarova, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

And she did it under the lights in the last match of the night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the show and entertainment aspects swirl with the tennis to produce a rare noisy environment.

"I like the first match because after the first match, you have the whole day," Li said. "Not like the night session. For the night session you have to wait the whole day and play in the night. But after winning the match I was feeling OK, just a little bit late."

Li got into the spirit of the night by putting on her own version of an off-Broadway show, refusing to let Jankovic see any sign of nervousness or weakness even though she felt both at times.

"I was a little bit show-time because I didn't want to show how nervous I was," Li said. "It's not all about technique. It's about body language. I don't want to show opponent how weak I am. I want to show how strong I am."

She did that, excitedly saying after the match it might have been the best of her life, although she was also asked about such things as her breakfast meal, of which she said: "I can't give away my secret."

On the match, she added: "I was really happy with the way I was playing on the court. I was trying to serve-volley, also trying to come to the net to win the points fast."

It's part of Li's strategy to make a jump from being among the top five players in the world to becoming the best.

"If I didn't change [tactics], I know I could stay in the top 10 but I want to make another level," she said.

Helping make Li's day even more difficult to fill in was her inability to watch other matches on television because some New York cable television providers are not showing the network that telecasts the US Open to most of the country in a dispute over rights fees.

"Today they didn't show on the tournament TV," Li said. "I turned on the TV, tried to see some matches, but they didn't show them."

Li was asked how many people in China might watch her play Makarova. "Not many," she said. "Maybe a couple of million."