BEIJING: Chinese star Li Na thrashed Francesca Schiavone of Italy in straight sets on Sunday, progressing to the second round of the China Open in Beijing with ease and delighting the home crowd.
Asia's top women's player, who needs a strong showing this week to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul next month, dominated the match throughout, taking the first set 6-2 and the second 6-3.
Li's quick, aggressive style had her opponent on the back foot right from the start and the pressure got to the Italian, who hit nine double faults in the first set and another three in the second.
Earlier, Britain's Laura Robson took another a step forward in her quest to break into the top 50 in the world, battling past an opponent more than twice her age.
The world number 57, who reached the final of the Guangzhou Open just over a week ago, continued her Asia adventure by defeating Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4, 6-4 to ease into the second round of the Premier Mandatory event.
But it was far from plain sailing for the 18-year-old Robson, who fought back brilliantly from three games down in the first set, winning five without reply against Date-Krumm, 42, as youth ultimately overpowered experience.
"I'm feeling confident when I play at the moment. Even when I'm not playing my best like I was today I still feel that I am able to win matches," Robson told AFP.
Date-Krumm raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set as Robson struggled with her serve and made a number of unforced errors.
But several big forehands from the young Briton saw her gain confidence and the Japanese was no match for her opponent's power.
Robson, who ended last year in 131st place in the WTA standings, took the second set with relative ease, maintaining her recent momentum in the "Asia swing" of the tour.
"I was a double-break down in the first set and I knew I had to get a lot better and start moving my feet a bit more," Robson said.
"She's a tough opponent to play against because she hits the ball very low so you have to bend your legs a lot more than I like to."
Robson said she was disappointed with her lack of rhythm but was confident she would play "a lot better" in the next round after improving her movement throughout the match and in a practice session afterwards.
The mixed doubles silver medallist at the London Olympics has shot up the world rankings this year, in large part due to a fourth-round appearance at the US Open and her exploits in Guangzhou, and now has the top 50 in her sights.
"After this week I should be pretty close," she said. "I've got to keep winning here for sure and do well in Osaka (next week) to have a chance."
Robson will play Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who defeated Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-7 (4/7) 7-6 (7/4) 6-2, in the next round of the fourth and final compulsory event which ranks just behind the Grand Slams and the Championships.
Elsewhere, ninth seed Marion Bartoli of France beat Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanovski 6-3, 6-3 while sixth seed Sara Errani from Italy was forced to retire with an injury, meaning compatriot Camila Giorgi went through.
Former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia knocked out her doubles partner, Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2, 6-4.
Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina also took their places in the second round with straight sets victories against Maria Kirilenko and Mona Barthel respectively.
Unseeded Monica Niculescu of Romania beat the Czech Republic's 16th seed Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-0. Ayumi Morita of Japan knocked out Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3, 6-0 and China's Peng Shuai beat Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium. -AFP