The Chinese star started the year brilliantly, winning the inaugural WTA Shenzhen event in front of her home fans and going on to reach the final in Melbourne for the second time in her career, after demolishing Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova along the way. Despite overwhelming crowd support, Li was unable to pull through and claim her second Grand Slam title, falling to the feisty defending champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets.
And unfortunately, during that match Li fell twice, injuring her ankle in the process. Although she played on, the injury proved serious enough to force her out of tournaments in Doha, Dubai and Indian Wells as well as the World Tennis Day exhibition events. Li had hoped to compete in a special exhibition competition in Hong Kong but unfortunately her ankle wasn’t ready for competitive tennis.
But she’s been back training hard for the past few weeks and is hoping to continue where she left off, in Miami. One hopes she’s confident that her ankle is ready as cement is the most brutal, unforgiving surface on the joints and it will have to withstand a lot of punishment over the next fortnight.
Li has a solid if unspectacular record in Miami, making the quarters on three occasions. Last year, eventual finalist Maria Sharapova got the better of her at that stage and if she’s to trouble that calibre of player this year, she will need to hit form pretty quickly during the early stages of the form.
But Li won’t be too concerned about her results in Miami, for now she’s just happy to be back in action again and she’ll be looking to step up her game as she plays herself back into form during the clay-court season.
Berdych gunning for more success in Miami
During Tomas Berdych’s breakthrough season in 2010, we first knew big things were on the cards after his performance at the Miami Masters. For many years the big Czech had underachieved since winning her first Masters title in Paris back in 2005.
However in beating Roger Federer, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling to reach the final (where he lost 7-5, 6-4 to Andy Roddick) he showed an increased maturity which would see him go on to make the French Open semi-finals and the Wimbledon final later that year.
Berdych has a very good record in Miami, making the semi-finals in 2008 where he lost to Rafa Nadal. Twelve months ago he would have been extremely disappointed with his three set loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the third round but after a brilliant start to 2013, Berdych is well placed to revive those memories from 2010.
Already this year he’s reached the quarters of the Australian Open, finals in Marseille and Dubai and he’s had a superb run in Indian Wells, beating players of the calibre of Richard Gasquet and Kevin Anderson, with ease.
So does he feel he’s getting closer to the likes of Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray? “Well, I think I’m getting closer, but those guys are still running away, you know,” he laughs. “I don’t know how they do it, but it’s really, really tough, you know.”
“If you look at the guys who are there, it’s really (a) very tough time. But it doesn’t change anything for me. I mean, I just trying to focus myself on either (each) week or each match.”
“So, really, (I) go day by day and also trying to be patient in that as well. Hopefully one day I can sit and say,’ Yeah, all that hard work has been paying off’, that I was able to move, even improve the ranking or make a really big result – Grand Slam or some other (big tournament) and so that’s my key motivation.”
Written by Steve Webb from Miami-Masters-Live.com