Tennis: Li knocked out in Malaysia; Dementieva, Zheng win
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Li Na was too distraught to speak publicly after losing 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 to Tatjana Malek of Germany in the first round of the inaugural Malaysian Open on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Li, who became China's first top-10 woman after reaching the Australian Open semifinals, broke Malek in all three chances she had, but lost her own serve six times.
Li and Zheng Jie were hailed in the Chinese media for their Grand Slam success in Melbourne last month, but have struggled since. Li hurt her back and retired during the Dubai quarterfinals last week, but said on Monday she was recovered and eyeing the Kuala Lumpur title.
The third-seeded Zheng, back in the top 20, was coming off a loss in her Dubai opener but beat Elena Bovina of Russia 6-4, 6-3.
Top-seeded Elena Dementieva defeated fellow Russian Ekaterina Bychkova 6-2, 6-1 to start her bid for a third title of the year following wins in Sydney and Paris. Dementieva will next play Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski at Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort.
Earlier, former world junior No. 1 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand defeated Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-1, 6-4. The 18-year-old Thai won the Wimbledon girls title last year and got a wild card into this event.
"I have to train harder as there is extra pressure on me to do well," she said. "The transition from junior to senior is not easy and many past junior champions have struggled to reach a higher level."
Noppawan will play Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round. The seventh-seeded Czech defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 7-5, 6-3.
Others through the first round included sixth-seeded Sybille Bammer, Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan, Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia, Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa and Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.