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Li Na

The occupational hazard of being one of the best players in the world, is that when you draw an unknown, it's rather hard to scout them. They are unlikely to have been playing at the same tournaments as you, they may not have played many matches. In short, they know everything about you, but you know nothing about them.

That was exactly the situation Li Na admitted to being in against Croatia's Ana Konjuh, junior champion here last year, who at just 16 is still very much adapting to life in the big leagues.

"Like zero, you know," Li said, when asked what she had discovered about her opponent, who qualified for the main draw here. "I tried to find the game in YouTube, so I was watch a couple of games. I still a little bit, how do you say, strange in the beginning of the match because I really didn't know the way exactly how she play on the court."

But if Li was bothered by her lack of awareness about the young Croatian's threats, it didn't show. As should always be the case in tennis, she took care of her own game, and the result took care of itself. Thundering through 6-2, 6-0 despite the heat, it was the perfect start to Li's mission to go one better than she did here last year. Win the thing.

And, even if she was not tested as other opponents will test her, Li encouragingly took the opportunity to put into practice the game style she and coach Carlos Rodriguez have been working on, moving forward from the baseline, dialling up the aggression, and shortening the points, which in the Melbourne heat could prove to be the difference between winning and losing.

Twenty winners to Konjuh's seven, 18 unforced errors to 25, 61 points to 36, it was emphatic from the former French Open champion. 

Not that Konjuh performed badly, as Li herself pronounced.

"I was feeling she has a huge, big serve and very good baseline," Li said about Konjuh. "I was feeling if she got more experience, I think she be very good player really."

Somewhat ironically, Li's next opponent is another 16-year-old, another exciting prospect in the women's game: Belinda Bencic.

Coached by Martina Hingis's mother, Bencic won the battle of the ages against Kimiko Date-Krumm in her opening round, and, with 11 sponsors already in her stable, is very much viewed as one to watch. Luckily for Li, she should find a little more to help her preparation.

"I know she was to play Kimiko today, but I have to prepare for my match so I didn't really see as much," she said. "Seem like I try to find on internet or coach have to do something."

Back to YouTube then.

Hisense Arena - Women's Singles - Round 1
N.Li CHN (4)
A.Konjuh CRO 

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Thursday, 18 December 2014
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