Tennis

Published: Friday January 17, 2014 MYT 12:47:02 PM
Updated: Friday January 17, 2014 MYT 12:47:10 PM

Li saves match point before rallying past Safarova

Li Na of China celebrates defeating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 17, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray

Li Na of China celebrates defeating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 17, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Fourth seed Li Na saved a match point before rallying past a combative Lucie Safarova to record a 1-6 7-6 6-3 third round victory and avoid becoming the highest-ranked casualty in the first week of the Australian Open on Friday

Li initially appeared out of sorts as the 26-year-old Czech attacked her forehand and serve, resulting in a slew of errors from the Chinese number one, who remained committed to her aggressive style even when she was playing badly.

Safarova, who has never beaten a top-10 opponent in a WTA Tour event, served for the contest in the ninth game of the second set and held a match point in the 12th before Li held, then produced a remarkable tiebreak that she clinched 7-2 to send it into a decider.

The 2011 French Open champion and Safarova continued to punch and counter punch in an entertaining third set before Li broke in the eighth game and then held serve to set up a fourth round clash with Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)

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