HONG KONG (AP) — Venus Williams lost to China’s Li Na 6-3, 7-6 (3) at the Hong Kong Classic exhibition tournament on Friday to complete her only warmup event for the Australian Open with two stunningly one-sided losses.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion said the matches helped prepare her for the first major of the year. The 30-year-old American is returning from a left knee injury.
“Definitely today, I was able to find a better rhythm,” said Williams, who lost to second-ranked Vera Zvonareva in straight sets Thursday. “My shots started feeling a lot better. I started hitting bigger serves on big points. Definitely, I felt very positive about my game.”
Williams lost her serve in the eighth game Friday and the 11th-ranked Li held on to take the first set. She continued to be pressured on her serve in the second set, and was down 3-5 when Williams saved match point. She broke in the next game to even the score, but Li powered through the tiebreaker, securing the win with a forehand winner down the line.
Li improved to 2-0 against Williams, after a three-set win in the Australian Open last year that sent the highest-ranked Chinese player to her first Grand Slam semifinal.
“It was great today to be able to face break points and still win those games and come back from a break and all those things that I haven’t done in a while,” Williams said. “These games have been very valuable for me because I just haven’t played a lot of tennis.”
The five-time Wimbledon winner last played on the tour at the U.S. Open.
Li said she approached the match with a positive attitude because of her winning record against Williams. The Chinese player also empathized with Williams over the difficulty of returning from injury.
“Maybe I’m more confident playing against her again,” Li said. “I have the same feeling when I come back to the court after injury — you don’t trust your body 100 percent. You’re a little afraid about another injury,” she said.
Earlier, 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin beat Hong Kong’s Zhang Ling 6-3, 6-1.