Li admits Wimbledon blunder
China's Li Na returns to Czech Republic's Barbora Zahlavova during their women's singles third round match on day five of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 27, 2014 - by Andrew Cowie
The 32-year-old Chinese superstar went down to a shock 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) defeat to Czech world number 43 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the third round with the loss coming on the back of a first round exit at the French Open last month.
Li, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, said she should have played a grasscourt warm-up event but was discouraged by the prospect of having to compete on the wet and wild English south coast.
"I always play Eastbourne every year, but it's always raining and windy. So I said, OK, I cannot practice in that," she said.
"I made a decision. I said let's change a little bit. I came here pretty early to try and play on the grass courts.
"It was the wrong decision. I need to play more matches before the big tournament. I didn't know how to play the big points in the important moments. I made a lot of mistakes."
Li, who had won both her previous matches against her Czech opponent without dropping a set, admitted she was looking forward to getting back onto the hard courts of the North American swing.
That period of the season concludes with the US Open, where she made the semi-finals in 2013.
"Finally, I am back on hard courts," she said.
Friday's match ended in bizarre circumstances with Li, facing match point, successfully challenging a forehand which had been called long.
But the 28-year-old Zahlavova Strycova, who will next face Caroline Wozniacki for a place in the quarter-finals, was quickly able to celebrate victory for real when Li served up a seventh double fault on the replayed point.
Victory represented a first last-16 spot at a major for the Czech, in her 32nd Grand Slam appearance.
"I am very happy. I played a great match and I believed I could do it. It's my biggest win," said the player whose low-key career only previously hit the headlines when she served a six-month doping ban in 2013.
Zahlavova Strycova said she did not hear Li challenge on match point against the background of noise on the 11,000-seater Court One.
"I thought it was over. I had to get my concentration back but happily, for me, she served a double fault."