Li handles the Melbourne heat, reaches 3rd round - NBC Sports

Li handles the Melbourne heat, reaches 3rd round
APWF
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland makes a backhand return to Li Na of China during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
January 14, 2014, 9:15 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Coming from one of China's three "Stove Cities" had its benefits for Li Na on another scorching day at the Australian Open, where she completed back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the draw to reach the third round.

The 2011 French Open, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, raced through the first set against 16-year-old Belinda Bencic in 22 minutes on Wednesday, conceding just 10 points. She had to work harder in the second, with temperatures topping 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), before winning 6-0, 7-6 (5).

Li, from Wuhan, one of three cities in central China renowned for hot temperatures, turns 32 next month. In the first round, she dropped just two games as she accounted for 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, the youngest player in the tournament. Bencic and Konjuh each won two of the four junior majors in 2013.

"It's warm, but it's OK," Li said of her 1-hour, 20-minute second-round match.

Temperatures topped 42 Celsius (108F) on Tuesday, and there were a total of nine retirements in the first round, equaling a Grand Slam record. The forecast is for the heat wave to continue until Friday, with daily maximums above 40 C (104F).

The players are finding ways to cope, using ice vests and wet towels in the changeovers. In Wednesday's first match on Margaret Court Arena, the heat rule went into effect allowing the No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculescu a 10-minute break after the second set.

Top-ranked Serena Williams was playing Vesna Dolonc in the second match on Rod Laver Arena and three-time defending men's champion Novak Djokovic was to follow on the center court.

In other completed matches, No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova followed up her first-round win over Venus Williams with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over American Irina Falconi.

On the men's side, No. 7 Tomas Berdych became the first man into the third round with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Kenny de Schepper of France.

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