Li first Chinese in qtrs
Maybe Li Na's husband should have left the stadium earlier.
The sixth-seeded Li was trailing 3-0 in the third set Monday at the French Open when Jiang Shan, who is also her former coach, left Court Philippe Chatrier. The Australian Open runner-up then won the final six games to advance to the quarterfinals with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 9 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
“I don't know what happened. Maybe it's just my husband left and I was able to win six games in a row,” joked Li, who became the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
After falling in the Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters, Li lost four consecutive matches and decided it was time to stop the slide.
She started working with new coach Michael Mortensen in April before the Madrid Open, and their collaboration immediately paid off as she reached the semifinals in the Spanish capital.
Li said she needed a break from her husband both on and off the court after three years of working together.
“Of course I was tired,” she said. “And also after Melbourne I didn't do well. So I needed to change the team a little bit to improve a lot. That's why I asked for Michael. He's from Denmark. I ask him to help me, and now the husband is (my) hitting partner.”
Li tried not to hurt her husband when she told him their collaboration was over and said she didn't use the word “fired.”
“I would never say that,” she said. “I mean, it's tough. … So I tried to never say, 'I fire you.”'
Li has now reached the quarterfinals at all four major tournaments and will next play either fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka or Ekaterina Makarova.
Kvitova broke the sixth-seeded Li twice in the opening set Monday, but the ninth-seeded Czech dropped serve twice in the second set as Li won five games in a row to even the score.
Li lost her serve in the second game of the final set when she double-faulted, but Kvitova failed to extend her lead as the Czech player lost the final six games of the match.
“I was really in trouble,” Li said about her difficult start to the third set. “I didn't believe I could come back, because she has a huge, big serve. But I was OK. She had just broken once.”
Kvitova was also looking for her first quarterfinal appearance on the Parisian clay.
Although Li doesn't like to play on clay, she is confident she can reach the same level she had at the Australian Openor even betterand believes in her chances to go deeper in the draw.
Three other Asian women have reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in the Open era: Kazuko Sawamatsu and Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, and Kazakh player Yaroslava Shvedova.