China's Li Na looking for Paris boost

It was a year ago that Li Na shot to world celebrity with a history-making win in the French Open women's singles final at Roland Garros.

Her straight sets demolition of defending champion Francesca Schiavone made her the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title and brought her massive acclaim in her homeland.

Since then though it has been tough going for the 30-year-old converted badminton player and she heads to Paris once again having failed to win another title.

This year has seen a run of frustrations for Li.

After reaching the final of the Sydney International where she lost to Victoria Azarenka, she had four match points in the fourth round of the Australian Open against Kim Clijsters, but failed to convert one of them and lost an epic three-setter.

There followed quarter-final exits at Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Madrid before she finally showed glimpses of her best form by reaching the final last weekend in Rome.

Once again though she let slip a winning position, leading Maria Sharapova by a set and 4-0 but eventually tasting defeat in a third set tie-breaker.

The inability to close out matches, she admitted in Rome, is worrying.

"I'm not worried about the forehands or the backhands, it's finishing the matches that is my problem," said Li, who comes to Paris ranked seventh in the world.

"There is not one player out there who gives up in a match, everyone is playing at such a high level. That's my problem - I need to win easier. It's a big problem for me to close out the matches."

Still, Li believes that her form is improving and she will be hoping that her return to Roland Garros will provide a healthy boost to morale when she once again steps out onto the red clay surface on which she looked so comfortable last year.

Despite her loss to Sharapova in a rain-hit match, Li took a dose of positives from her run into the final.

"I have to say that I feel physically great right now," she said.

"I can slide on court and get back to the opposition and I liked the way I hit on the court. A lot of positive things and I think I am ready for the French Open."

With the tournament wide open, Li will start as one of the favourites and much will depend on how she can negotiate the early rounds to set up another run at the title in the second week.


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