|Serena Williams, in Istanbul
Istanbul: Li Na took a significant step toward reaching the semi-finals of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships for the first time, with a rollercoaster victory over Jelena Jankovic here on Thursday.
In a contest where both players enjoyed periods of dominance, it was Li Na who eventually prevailed, wrapping up a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win after two hours and 11 minutes. “Today (Thursday) wasn’t only about technique,” Li said in her on-court interview. “I think both of us were playing unbelievable, so it was more mental, and I was really happy I could play well again at the end of the match.”
In a battle of aggressor against counter-puncher, Jankovic looked in real danger of being blown away amidst a whirlwind of Li winners.
Seven weeks ago, Li required just 57 minutes to see off Jankovic in the fourth round of the US Open. On Thursday, when she carved out two more break points in the first game of the second set, another one-sided contest looked on the cards.
However, Jankovic showed admirable resolve to fend off the danger before wrestling back the initiative with some typically stubborn baseline defence.
Marrying superhuman court coverage with some precise passing shots, the Serb dominated the rest of the set, winning five consecutive points - the last a fine forehand passing shot after yet another energy-sapping rally - to claim the pivotal break at 4-3.
Just as Jankovic looked like running away with the match, Li came back once again to capture the first break of the decider. While this advantage proved a fleeting one, the No.4 seed was not to be denied, striking again to go 5-3 up thanks to a vicious crosscourt backhand winner, before serving out moments later.
In her final round robin match, Li will face Victoria Azarenka, knowing that victory will assure her of top place in the White Group.
On Wednesday, Serena Williams concluded the second day at Istanbul with a straightforward 6-2, 6-4 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.