The 10 million followers of Li Na on China’s social media will have rejoiced at the ease of their heroine’s progress into the third round of The Championships. The second seed in the Ladies’ Singles spent only one hour nine minutes in seeing off Austria’s Yvonne Meusberger 6-2, 6-2 on No.2 Court and the only cause for slight concern was Li’s erratic hitting.
Her winners, 33 in all, were struck with power and precision and Meusberger, ranked No.38, was utterly outclassed. Bizarrely the Austrian was reduced to counting the mounting Li mistakes in the hope of salvation of some sort. Of the 41 points Meusberger accumulated, no fewer than 21 were gifts of Chinese unforced errors, something which Li will need to tighten up as the competition progresses.
It is not, she insists, something which concerns her unduly. “I hit a lot of winners, right? If you want to play more aggressive, this is the normal way. If you play defensively, of course, you will make less mistakes.”
The sole statistic where the two women were virtually equally matched was in their ages. Li is 32 and Meusberger 30 and they are among the 16 ladies classified as “thirty something” in the main singles draw. Elsewhere the gap approached a chasm. Li has won Grand Slams at the French and Australian Opens, whereas Meusberger’s lone tour title was gained last year in Bad Gastein, which by happy coincidence is in Austria.
Trim, neat and unassuming, Li is a popular figure, not only at Wimbledon but on the tour generally. She was well supported by a clear majority of spectators in this match, a fact which may have helped further to undermine an opponent who looked apprehensive enough as she arrived on court. This was emphasised when her opening ball toss was a false one, immediately followed by a double fault and she was broken to love.
Meusberger managed to perk up noticeably when Li, serving for the first time, started spraying shots to all quarters of the arena, mainly outside the lines of play, and the Austrian held serve for a 2-1 lead, fighting off a break point and surviving a second double-fault. Sadly, though Li continued to contribute to her opponent’s points tally, that was about as good as it got for Meusberger in the opening set as Li swept the next five games.
The second set followed a virtually identical pattern, with Meusberger taking a 2-1 lead and then looking on as Li again moved into top gear and captured five games in succession. Whenever she put ball on racket with accuracy, Li’s shots were delivered with power into the farthest corners of the court. She was credited with 33 clean winners, compared to the Meusberger total of four. Four aces will have pleased Li, too, as well as the big hand she received from the crowd before slipping away, modestly content. And back home the millions will be happy.
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