Li Na tumbles out of Doha
Top-seeded Li Na's Australian Open triumph last month was followed by a stunning tumble when she lost to a qualifier in the third round of the Qatar Open on Thursday.
The celebrated Chinese player was beaten 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-4 by Petra Cetkovska, a Czech ranked outside the top 100, in a topsy-turvy contest in Li's first tournament since her Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne last month.
She seemed to have turned the match around when she came from behind to lead 3-1 in the final set, but then appeared to run out of steam in a two-hour 46-minute contest in which her ratio of errors increasingly soared.
Her consolations are that she will still be world No. 2 for the first time - the highest by an Asian player - at the end of the week and that she mostly stuck to an ambitiously aggressive gameplan despite a disruptive wind.
"I don't think my performance was so bad," Li said.
"Though if I had continued coming to the net more, it would have been better. A defeat is not always so bad either. At least I fought and I got information from what happened. I will put that information straight into my training."
Li paid tribute to Cetkovska, whose performance suggested she is recovering well from injuries which caused her to plunge from the world's top 30.
Nevertheless, Li had so many chances to take hold of the contest, having game points to lead 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 in the final set, and yet was unable to convert any of them.
"I was well down in the third set, so I am very happy to come back," said Cetkovska.
"This is a tennis match, so such things can always happen. It will give me a lot of confidence."
Li appeared to have benefited from a highly charged incident in the second set when she might have gone a set and a break of serve down.
After swinging a ferocious backhand drive towards the baseline, she heard the shot called out, with a lunging Cetkovska barely able to touch it.
Had that decision stood, Li would have been down by a set, 1-2 and 15-40. However, her appeal to the video review system succeeded, the ball appearing to have touched the back edge of the line, and the score was changed to 30-all instead.
Cetkovska protested that the "out" call was audible before she had made her stroke and that the point should therefore have been replayed, but this was rejected.
The Czech's standard dropped markedly after that, with Li taking seven successive games to lead 2-0 in the final set.
However, the 31-year-old then appeared to tire, and Cetkovska took advantage to advance and set up a quarter-final with Angelique Kerber, the sixth-seeded German. - AFP.