Saturday January 19, 2013
Li Na and Nishikori maintain Asian momentum in Open
CHINA’s ’s Li Na and Japan’s Kei Nishikori (pic) maintained their love affair with the Australian Open as they both reached the fourth round with victories yesterday.
Li Na, the 2011 runner-up, breezed past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, while Nishikori shook off injury concerns in his straight-sets win over Russian challenger Evgeny Donskoy.
But there was disappointment for China’s Zheng Jie, who was bundled out of the tournament by German 18th seed Julia Goerges as she narrowly failed to reach the fourth round for the second year in a row. Li Na now has the chance to avenge her countrywoman’s defeat after she set up a meeting with Goerges, thanks to her 6-4, 6-1 over Cirstea.
The former French Open winner came through a seesawing first set and then capitalised as Cirstea crumbled, racing through the second set in just 28 minutes.
Afterwards, she said she hoped to advance her world ranking from six to three under new coach Carlos Rodriguez, former handler of Justine Henin, who has revitalised her career.
“Of course I will try as hard as I can. I really want to be top three,” said Li Na.
“This is the goal for whole team. I know it’s tough, but if you didn’t have a goal maybe you just feel like, ‘Oh, number six also is pretty good.
“But I still try to fight on the court to push myself.”
Nishikori had to pull out of this month’s Brisbane International semi-finals with a knee injury, and he needed a medical timeout to strap his left ankle on Friday.
But he still had too much for Donskoy and ran out 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 6-3 winner to move one victory from repeating last year’s quarter-final appearance, the best ever performance by a Japanese man.
“I think I played well in the important games. It wasn’t easy to play today with the wind,” Nishikori said.
“But like in the last couple games I played really well and have more confidence coming to play. I think I’m in good shape.”
Nishikori is the last Japanese player in the men’s singles draw after the exits of Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito, while 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm plays her third-round match against unseeded Serb Bojana Jovanovski on Saturday.
“It’s good for Japanese tennis, for sure and I’m very happy that Kimiko is doing well,” he said. “That’s amazing how much she can play.” — AFP