Li Na is hoping that her brutal winter training regime will result in another impressive run at the Australian Open.
Li Na may be 30 but she's just completed the toughest off-season training camp of her career under the stern eye of her coach Carlos Rodriguez. It's what it takes these days if you want to challenge for majors but for someone who turned the wrong side of 30 in 2012, it almost pushed her into retirement.
“He (Rodriguez) gave me a lot of tough times when I was training with him,” Li laughed. “First three days, my husband didn’t come with me. After three days, I was calling him saying, ‘Please come with me.’ I was thinking already to retire after three days, because he’s really, really tough!”
But it's been worth it. In the first week of 2013, she lifted the WTA Shenzhen title in front of her adoring fans before flying to Sydney and making the semis, losing to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska. It appears that the 2011 finalist is ready to cause a stir down under once again.
2012 was a little disappointing for Li Na but at least she won't have Kim Clijsters thwarting her any more. The Belgian stopped her in the 2011 Aussie Open final and produced a remarkable comeback against the Chinese star in a draining fourth round tussle last year.
It'll take some effort to defeat her once again. She loves the environment of the 'friendly slam' which explains her fine record over the past few years.
“I really have to say this is my favourite Grand Slam,” she said. “I mean, I just feel every year I come back, you can see all the friends. If you come to the practice desk, you can see the same people every year. If you come to the locker-room, ‘Oh I saw friend again’.”