Working with coach Carlos Rodriguez, who guided Justine Henin to four French Open titles, Li is applying her all-court skills, competing with more clarity and trying to play higher-percentage tennis this season. When she’s tight, Li’s flatter forehand can sometimes stray and her serve can flat-line into net, but she’s often produced the right balance between aggression and control. The 31-year-old Chinese reached her second Australian Open final in January, was the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in Stuttgart last month and advanced to at least the semifinals in four of her first five tournaments in 2013. Since the Stuttgart final, she managed just one win combined in Madrid and Rome. But Li is a rhythm player who can get hot in a hurry—she will be dangerous if she finds her form early.
What to Like:
The 2011 French Open champion can bring her best on the major stages, her two-handed backhand is a weapon, she’s an agile player who can use her quickness to transition from defense to offense, and she’s playing with more patience.
What Not to Like:
Clay is not her best surface: Li has failed to surpass the fourth round in five of her six Roland Garros appearances, she’s won only one title on clay and while intensity can be a strength, she’s also been prone to implosions under pressure.
What to Expect:
While Li can be inconsistent on clay, her upside is high. If she can compete with the composure she showed in Melbourne earlier this year, a second-week return is within reach.
2013 French Open Profiles: