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Li lashed by Sands' stormer

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Bethanie Mattek-Sands Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Bethanie Mattek-Sands Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Bethanie Mattek-Sands Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

TENNIS: Bethanie Mattek-Sands let her racquet, rather than her clothes, do the talking as she ousted former French Open champion Li Na in the biggest upset of the women's singles so far.

Yesterday it was Mattek-Sands' crunching groundstrokes and crisp volleys that caught the eye as she fought back from a set down to win 5-7 6-3 6-2.

The world number 67 served for the match for the first time at 5-0 only for sixth seed Li to pull back two games, but on her second chance Mattek-Sands made no mistake.

She said: "I got up 5-0 and I was spanking returns. I went out there and I wanted to play aggressive, and that's what I did.

"That's one of the best wins of my career. I knew she wasn't going to give it to me at the end. Not that she was giving it to me in the third set, either. She's consistent and good in these situations. I had to win.

"At a grand slam, it's my biggest win. I'm really proud of myself that I was able to close out the match the way I did."

Two summers ago Mattek-Sands was ranked in the top 30 but last year came a slump that dropped her outside 200 in the rankings.

 

LOW

She was still ranked that low in February but has really hit form on the clay, coming through qualifying in Stuttgart last month to reach the semi-finals before her run was ended by Li.

Yesterday's win over the 2011 champion means Mattek-Sands has already equalled her best run at Roland Garros, and the main positive for the 28-year-old is she is healthy.

The American struggled with fatigue last season before changing her diet after tests showed she had a number of allergies.

She admitted she came close to quitting the sport at times, saying: "It definitely crosses your mind.

"And my husband is back there. He remembered probably one of the matches I walked off losing and I said, 'I quit. I can't do it anymore. I'm so frustrated not feeling good and not being able to move the way I want to.'

"It's frustrating because I know how I can play and there were times when I just physically couldn't do it. But I have a good team around me that believes in me and gave me some good pep talks. I stuck it out."

The match finished in heavy rain having been twice disrupted, but Li was left scratching her head for answers.

The Chinese woman said: "If I knew for sure, I would not lose seven games in a row. This is very tough conditions, going back to the court three times.

"But for both players it's the same, so I should find out what happened and talk to myself and also talk to the team to see what happened."

Li admitted the level of Mattek-Sands' play had shocked her, saying: "I was a little bit surprised the way she's hitting on the court. Well done to her. Good luck for her, as well."

 

WRAPPED

There were no such worries for ninth seed Sam Stosur, who wrapped up her 6-4 6-3 victory over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic just before rain began to fall for a second time.

Stosur, who will meet Jelena Jankovic next, is regarded as a particularly dangerous player on clay and reached the French Open final in 2010.

But it has not always been like that, and the Australian said: "I didn't play on clay at all until I was 15.

"I went on a junior trip to Europe, and we had five weeks, I think, on clay. I didn't win a match and I hated every second of it."

Defending champion Maria Sharapova drew the short straw weather wise, and her match against Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard was eventually called off for the night with the second seed leading 6-2 4-2.

Third seed Victoria Azarenka reached the third round with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Annika Beck that was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested.

Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, won five of the first six games against German teenager Beck only to then lose three in a row.

Beck, last year's junior champion at Roland Garros, had two chances to level at 5-5 but Azarenka dug deep to win the set. Seventh seed Petra Kvitova is also through to the third round thanks to a 6-4 6-3 victory over China's Shuai Peng.


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