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20 July 2024

China's Li, Peng lead Asian charge

China's Li Na hits a return to Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan during their women's singles match at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday. (REUTERS)


Chinese pair Li Na and Peng Shuai led the Asian charge on the first day at the Australian Open on Monday, winning their first round clashes in stifling conditions under the beating Melbourne sun.

Fifth seed Li, who reached the final in Melbourne last year, overcame Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 at the Hisense Arena while Peng, seeded 16, saw off the challenge of France's Aravane Rezai 6-3, 6-4.

But there was no fairytale result for veteran Japanese player Kimiko Date-Krumm, who at 41 years and 109 days became the event's second-oldest women's singles player in the Open era.

China's Li, who became Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion when she won last year's French Open, complained she could hardly breathe after coming through her opener.

"It's not easy," said Li, who last week reached the final of the Sydney International.

"I'm not used to it. I came down from Sydney, but there it was only like 20 degrees. It was really tough today."

"I was feeling at the end of the first set really the heat on the court. Also I was feeling no air. I couldn't breathe. Like I was feeling like, what's going on?" she added.

The 29-year-old, who says she has rediscovered her hunger after a major slump following her breakthrough win at Roland Garros, said she was happy with her form coming into the year's first grand slam.

"I was happy with what I was doing at the Hopman Cup and Sydney. Yeah, I think I (will) just continue," she added.

Date-Krumm, the second oldest player to play women's singles behind Australia's Beverley Rae, at 44, was well beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Greece's Eleni Daniilidou.

But the Japanese player, who came out of retirement four years ago, said she had no plans to retire - and could continue on the circuit for several more seasons.

"Maybe I will play until 45 years or, I don't know, 50, I don't know, because when I started four years ago I never thought I would be playing for four years," Date-Krumm added.

The evergreen, who iced her right leg and left ankle after the match, admitted she may have overdone her run-up to the Grand Slam after winning an ITF singles event in China and also reaching the doubles final this month.

"For me it was a little bit too much, too many matches," said Date-Krumm, currently ranked 79th.

"Today I did not have a good feeling because my body had no power and it was so windy. It was difficult to control the ball," she said.

Date-Krumm's fellow Japanese Ayumi Morita was beaten 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 by 32nd seed Petra Cetkovska despite taking the first set.

"It was a tough match. It was very difficult conditions with the wind. I think I had many chances but couldn't take them. I'm a little bit disappointed now because I wanted to win the match," said Morita.