Istanbul: Li Na made a winning start to her campaign at the WTA Championships in Istanbul as she overcame a late wobble to see off Sara Errani in straight sets.
The Chinese right-hander eventually came through 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), but it could and should have been easier for the fourth seed who had built up what looked a decisive lead in the second set.
Indeed, having survived a match-point on her own serve, Errani remarkably twice broke Li’s delivery to stay alive and force a tie-break, although it would ultimately prove in vain as she went down to her second straight defeat in the tournament.
There had been some doubt over whether the sixth seed would even take to the court after experiencing pain in her calf against Azarenka and both her legs were heavily strapped.
Li had won all their previous five matches and 10 sets in a row, so she went into the contest as a heavy favourite.
Her extra power told as a break in the sixth game proved enough to clinch the first set.
Errani responded well at the start of the second and broke to lead 3-1 when Li double-faulted, but the Chinese player hit back with a run of four straight games.
The tie-break might have slipped away from Li as well. After losing five straight points from 1-3, Errani saved two more match points before her opponent finally took her fourth chance.
Li joins Azarenka with one victory in the White Group, while Errani’s hopes of making the semi-finals are now extremely slim.
In late match on Tuesday, 2011 champion Petra Kvitova, who had to withdraw during last year’s event because of injury, beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-4.
Kvitova, a former Wilmbledon champion, struggled to close out the match.
She had four break points and wasted two match points before winning on a challenge.