Last year’s beaten women's singles finalist Li Na is confident about going one better at Australian Open 2014. And after a near-perfect preparation for her challenge, it’s not hard to see why.
Twelve months ago, Li won the ATP title in Shenzhen before coming to Melbourne and steamrolling her way through four seeded players to reach the Australian Open final, where she fell to Victoria Azarenka.
This year, the Chinese No.1 has managed a similar preparation in which she defended her title in Shenzhen, and has even made a few small adjustments to acclimatise to the forecasted heat in Melbourne.
“At least I was play first week in Shenzhen, so was much better at least have a round with 22 degree or 25 degree. It's better I'm not going straightaway from Beijing to here.
“Also after Shenzhen, I was come here straightaway. I been here since Monday, so I have a couple more days to prepare for the hot weather,” Li said.
The world No.4 has reason to be confident on the blue Plexicushion too. She’s made two of the last three finals at Melbourne Park, and made a semifinal appearance in 2010. It’s a tournament that is her ‘home’ Grand Slam event, and she says it has a special meaning for her.
But can she finally grasp the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup this year?
“Of course. After I have a very good year last year, yeah, also in the winter training, I was bringing a lot … I'm wishing I can do really well, even better this year,” she said.
There is definitely a sense of confidence about Li, as the 31-year-old admits she is very happy in her career after achieving her goal of finishing 2013 in the world’s top three, and there is no suggestion that her age is any issue.
“At least I'm healthy. At least I can play good tennis on the court. I don't have to think about when I should be finish. I really love the tennis life right now. I just really want to enjoy it.”
And her goal for the year ahead is simple: “I really wish I can win another Grand Slam. This is the goal for me. I will keep going for that.”
Even if she doesn’t manage the feat at Melbourne Park in 2014, Li jokes that there is another goal that she will have in mind at this year’s tournament.
“This year at least I try not to falling down on court. This is more important for me,” she joked.
Whether or not she falls as she famously did in 2013, Li is bound to have thousands of fans from her native China and beyond cheering her on when her quest for a first Australian Open crown begins on Monday.