|Li Na of China hits a return during the 1st round of women's singles match against Kazakhstan's Ksenia Pervak on day 1 of 2012 Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 16, 2012. Li Na won 2-0. (Xinhua/Guo Yong)
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MELBOURNE, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's Li Na beat off a slow start to down Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 in stifling heat in the first round of the Australian Open which opened here on Monday.
Fifth-seeded Li, who lost last year's final in Melbourne to Kim Clijsters, looked more strained than the 20-year-old Pervak. Pervak, the world number 40, matched Li for much of the first set as the two players traded a series of groundstrokes.
However, the reigning French Open champion Li soon recovered as she broke Pervak to go to 4-2 and took a 5-3 lead in the opening set when she broke Pervak's service on her fifth break point, winning the game when the Kazak player hit a two-handed backhand wide.
Li held in the next game to take the first set, then stepped up to break Pervak's serve again to open the second and make it 2-0. Pervak tried one set back in the third game, but only saw the world No. 6 Li race away with the match in stifling heat in the Hisense Arena.
"It is not easy to play in so heated air," said Li.
"I could not even breath on the court, especially in the second set," said Li, "but I am luck that I won so easy in the second."
Li has had a strong start to the season, winning three matches at the Hopman Cup and reaching the Sydney International final. "But this week is another story, what I did in Sydney and Perth was not important. This is bigger and more important. I wish I do better this year, but it is far away.
"I didn't play good tennis in the last half year," said Li, "After the French Open, my life changed a lot and I was not used to it."
"But now I am back. I'm feeling more tough, not like the last half of last year when I was losing all those matches," said Li, who won 2011 Sports Personality of Year last Sunday, "I'm happy with what I am doing right now."