Published: June 20, 2011
BEIJING - Red-hot French Open champion Li Na looks set to maintain her Grand Slam momentum at Wimbledon, where she has twice reached the semifinals.
History-making Li, who was runner-up at the Australian Open in January and then went one better by winning the final at Roland Garros to claim her first major title, has been hailed as the leading championship hope in a wide-open women's field at the All-England Club.
After being crowned on her least favorite surface, clay, the world No 4 appears confident about her third pursuit of a major championship this year after becoming China's first Grand Slam quarterfinalist there in 2006 and repeating that feat last year.
"Wimbledon is a grass tournament. You can see that I played well in the past two Slams so, of course, I should get good results at Wimbledon," Li told the Beijing Times.
"I have played well on grass before. I made my first Grand Slam breakthrough at Wimbledon. I know how to play on grass," said Li, who exited at the second round of the Eastbourne grass-court tournament last week.
Third-seeded Li, who will take on unseeded Alla Kudryavtseva from Russia in her opening match, won't face any particularly tough challenges until potentially facing compatriot Zheng Jie or US power hitter Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round.
Should Li reach the last 16, she will likely encounter Serb former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic or Poland's rising star, Agnieszka Radwanska, before a potential matchup with defending champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Williams, who has just come back from a foot injury, ended Li's Wimbledon campaign last year. Despite Williams' experience and three Wimbledon titles, strong-willed Li will have momentum on her side.
Another Chinese star, Zheng, who reached the semifinals as a wild card in 2008 and won a doubles title with Yan Zi in 2006, will meet unfancied Czech Zuzana Ondraskova in the first round on her favorite surface and then more than likely face a danger meeting with Mattek-Sands in the second.
Meanwhile, teaming with compatriot Peng Shuai, Zheng will also be out to emulate her 2006 success in doubles and also get valuable experience for next year's London Olympic Games, which will be held at the same venue. The No 8 seeds face a potentially tough third-round match against Italians Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.
Joining Li and Zheng in the Chinese contingent is in-form Peng Shuai, who lifted her world ranking to a career peak of No 20 after a runner-up finish at the Brussels Open last month. In the top quarter of the draw, Peng will face Belgian Kirsten Flipkens first up, while Australian No 10 seed Samantha Stosur looms in the third round.
The other Chinese player in the main draw, Zhang Shuai, will be chasing her first victory at a Grand Slam event when she meets two-time major winner and Russian 12th seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the opening round.