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Li Na laughing all the way to quarter-finals

Na Li serves on Day Seven.
by Dan Imhoff
Monday 1 July 2013

Jiang Shan is pretty used to being the butt of his wife Li Na’s jokes by now – be it his snoring or the fact she once forgot their wedding anniversary. On her run to a maiden Grand Slam final in Melbourne two years ago, the world No.6 had the crowds and press enthralled with her blunt jibes about married life.

And since Jiang handed over the coaching reins to Justine Henin’s former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, last year, it was a welcome reprieve from the jokes – that is, until today when China’s best explained how she prepared to dismantle Italian Roberta Vinci 6-0, 6-2 in the fourth round.

Vinci is known to have one of the most effective backhand slices on tour, so Jiang hit the practice courts sending down slice after slice to his wife – maybe a little too effectively.

I mean, actually today the match, I was so nervous really because, like, yesterday, also today, the warm-up, my husband, he tried to hit slice. I mean, it's totally different men and woman. I was feeling so bad,” Li said afterwards.

“Before come to the court, Carlos was talk to me because he already saw what happen. I was like, ‘I can't catch the ball’, he was hitting so [much] slice, I couldn't catch the right time. But I think he was happy.”

Rodriguez was not immune to the world No.6’s light-hearted jibes either. “For his job, he makes me unhappy, I think is his job,” she said.

It was a complete turnaround in form for the former 2011 French Open winner after she struggled to get past Czech Klara Zakopolova in the previous round, 4-6, 6-0, 8-6.“Yeah, I saw today the match should be so tough because I know how good she will slice on the grass court,” she said.

“But I was surprise today. Is totally different than last match. Last match I was feeling like it's not terrible, but I was feeling so tired. Yeah, I was ready for running for another three hours again.”

She started the match in a canter, racing to 5-0 before stumbling on serve, sparing Vinci a bagel against her name when she missed a forehand volley.

Li finally steadied to take the set on her second opportunity with a wrong-footing cross-court backhand winner for 6-2 and from there was never headed, reaching match point on the back of 12 straight points.

She finished with 26 winners to her opponent’s eight and after reeling off the final six games of the match, the delight on her husband’s face was clear.

Still pursuing her first title for 2013 after reaching a second Australian Open final in January and the Stuttgart final in April, Li is now the only former Grand Slam champion still standing in the top half of the women’s draw.

It is her third Wimbledon quarter-final and she awaits either last year’s runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska or Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

For his part, Jiang won’t have to send down quite so many heavy backhand slices to help his wife prepare for her next bout. If Li reaches her first Wimbledon semi-final though, she will be joking at her husband’s expense once more.

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