x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Sydney finalist Li Na reveals secret to revival ahead of Australian Open

Boot camp in Munich and a snore cure put Asia's first slam winner back on track after the Chinese success at French Open.

Li Na of China now heads 2-1 in her personal battle with Petra Kvitova.
Li Na of China now heads 2-1 in her personal battle with Petra Kvitova.

SYDNEY // A gruelling boot camp and a cure for her husband's snoring may have put China's Li Na back on track before the Australian Open, where she is among the favourites as she seeks a second grand slam crown.

The rejuvenated Li has been in eye-catching form in this year's early exchanges, winning all three of her Hopman Cup singles matches and reaching the Sydney International final today where she is the defending champion.

The fighting skills were evident when she fought back from a set and a break down to delay Petra Kvitova's bid for the world No 1 ranking in a tenacious 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 semi-final victory.

In doing so world No 5 Li ended the Czech left-hander's hopes of toppling Caroline Wozniacki from the top of the women's rankings.

Asia's first slam winner at the French Open last year, she will face either Belarussian third seed Victoria Azarenka or Polish seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday's final, but her fourth win this week are stoking expectations of another successful run at the Australian Open.

Li, who turns 30 next month, fell into a deep slump after Roland Garros but she says the reasons for her revival are simple: intense training, and better sleep after her coach and husband, Jiang Shan, lost weight to curb his snoring.

"I say, 'If you put on more weight, you're divorced', so he change!" Li said to Australia's Fairfax media group. "He's getting better and better [because] he's losing the weight."

Li constantly joked about Jiang's noisy nocturnal habits last year at Melbourne, complaining his buzz-saw snoring woke her up every hour before her semi-final with Caroline Wozniacki.

The feisty, tattooed Li sidelined Jiang as coach in favour of Michael Mortensen for the French Open, but has now returned to the tutelage of her husband, the long-time mentor with whom she has forged her unconventional career.

Li battled hard with Chinese authorities to let her train with Jiang, breaking away from the state system, and was rewarded with the Roland Garros win which immediately transformed her into one of the country's biggest stars.

She acknowledged the distractions of fame, including public appearances and a bronze statue in her home city of Wuhan, affected the rest of her season as she won only one match at Wimbledon and was a first-round casualty at the US Open.

But a four-week training camp in Munich had left her refreshed and reinvigorated. "After winter training I was feeling better for the season," she told reporters in Perth, where the Hopman Cup is held. "After the French Open I didn't do well.

I had four weeks [in Munich], no photo shoots, no interviews, just very tough training... mostly for fitness. I want to keep healthy for the whole season. I am not young any more and do not have time to waste.

"I have to focus on every tournament and every second and that is why I stayed in Munich for such a long time."

According to Fairfax, ticket sales through tour operators in China are up 30 percent on last year, and the number of Chinese journalists covering the Open has more than doubled.