Inspired Li powers into US Open last 16
Li Na celebrates a point during a match against Laura Robson at the 2013 US Open on August 30, 2013 in New York. Chinese fifth seed Li Na avenged the loss that eliminated her from last year's US Open with a 6-2, 7-5 triumph over British teen Laura Robson on Friday and powering her way into the fourth round.
Li, the 2011 French Open winner, smashed 11 aces to move within a victory of matching her best run ever on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts, a 2009 berth in the quarter-finals.
The 31-year-old from Wuhan was upset by Robson in last year's third round but connected on 65 percent of her first serves and won all nine points when she came to the net, dictating the tempo for most of the match.
"After third round, exact draw like last year, I was like special today," Li said. "I was a little surprised because today I have a lot of aces, so it was like, 'Wow.'
"I was really happy how I was hitting on the court and I thought I served really well."
Li has let nothing distract her this week, least of all a mistranslation in the Chinese media of a New York Times profile on Li that wrongly indicated she had taken the banned substance testosterone.
Li said she has never taken any banned substance and told China Daily that such things have toughened her for the challenges she faces on and off the court.
"I actually started to feel grateful to the media," she told the newspaper. "Everyone has to experience something before growing up. Without these reports, I won't experience so much ups and downs and I won't be as mature as I am now."
Li said that even her coach, former Justine Henin mentor Carlos Rodriguez, would have to say he liked her effort against Robson, even though Li said he would have a different message for her during practice.
"He would think I can come even more to the net," she said.
Rodriguez helped relax Li with some words of wisdom before the match.
"I was so nervous," Li said. "He said something to help me speak out and put the pressure out. After the talk I was feeling much, much better, because before I never tried to share the feeling with the team."
Li broke Robson to open the match and again in the fifth game on her way to capturing the first set after 29 minutes, aided by 15 Robson unforced errors.
Robson broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set when Li sent a forehand wide but Li broke back in the fifth and again in the penultimate game for a victory that came after 81 minutes when Li swatted a second-serve ace.
Robson found herself helpless at times, the 19-year-old English left-hander unable to match her Grand Slam-best fourth-round run of last year thanks to Li.
"There wasn't a lot I could do at some points," Robson said.
"She played really well. She didn't give me too many chances in the rally. I didn't get a rhythm going with my groundstrokes. She served really well and was returning really deep."
Li seeks her eighth career crown and second of the year after a home-soil title at Shenzhen, but is not getting ahead of herself.
"For tennis, you have to do something. It's not only thinking about," Li said. "Still far away to win the tournament. Now just beginning second week, so still have a lot of matches. I have to improve myself."