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Tennis | Australian Open

Li still smarting from Clijsters heartbreak

Fiery Chinese star Li Na bristled at the mention of the retired Kim Clijsters on Sunday and said she was disappointed not to have the chance to avenge her Australian Open losses to the Belgian ace.

Former French Open winner Li, among the leading contenders at Melbourne Park, was foiled by Clijsters in the 2011 final and let slip four match points against her in last year's fourth round, a defeat that left her in tears.

Asked whether she was happy not to have to play Clijsters, who retired last year, again in Melbourne, Li said: "Why should I be happy? I was really looking forward to playing her again.

"I played her last year in the fourth round. I never had a chance to come back, so I'm not happy." She added: "Every time I play against her, it's always a tough match. It's a really good challenge."

The world No 6 failed to go beyond the fourth round at any of the Grand Slam tournaments last year but she has shown progress under new coach Carlos Rodriguez and started the year by winning in Shenzhen, China.

Li, 30, admitted that she was already feeling the pace after a frenetic start to the year and had been a fixture on the massage table as she prepares for the year's first Grand Slam.

"I've just had two days totally off. Now I'm feeling fresh again. The team was working so hard. Two days ago my body was feeling really, really tired," she said.

"The physio does a very good massage. On the massage table he was really killing me. But now I'm feeling much better, so I'm looking forward to this year for Australia."

She said Rodriguez, former handler of seven-time Grand Slam-winner Justine Henin, had tried to make her feel more relaxed ahead of the first round, where she will play Kazakhstan's Sesil Karatantcheva on Monday.

"I feel more relaxed working with him. He never gives me pressure. He says, 'You never know what will happen on the tennis court, so just try to win the first round. If you can't win the first round, nothing will happen after'."


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