No. 2 ranked Li Na had to wait until Sunday to make her debut at the 2014 Sony Open Tennis, but when the Australian Open champion finally did make it on the courts she got into the swing of things quickly in getting past big-hitting American Madison Keys in a 7-6(3), 6-3 slugfest in the first match on Stadium Court. The women's third round match featured plenty of penetrating groundstrokes and numerous unforced errors in the first set before Na held her nerve to best Keys in the first set tie-break.
Neither player had much success holding serve in the first set as both Na and Keys were broken three times and the trend continued early in the second, at least for Na as she lost her first serve game in the second set, dropping behind 0-2. But the charismatic Na would battle back and regained her form to take a 5-2 lead before closing out the match 6-3.
Na's second match at the Sony Open in the woman's fourth round will be against the winner of the Carla Suarez Navarro--Kai Kanepi match to be played later in the day.
In other early Sunday action, one of the most entertaining matches of the young tournament took place between two of the game's most popular players, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, as the two captivated the Sony Open crowd's attention on the Grandstand Court before Tsonga pulled it out in three thrilling sets 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5. The Cypress native showed plenty of flashes of the shot making form that saw him reach the finals of the Australian Open and the semis in Wimbledon in 2006 as he took the first 6-4 before battling Tsonga to a second set tiebreak.
At 2-1 up in the tie breaker, Baghdatis lured the Frenchman into the net with a drop shot before dinking a perfectly executed lob over his head to take a 3-1 lead. He would get to 5-1 before Tsonga pulled out some of his own magic. Tsonga stayed alive by returning the favor with his own drop shot and lob, before making a stabbing volley to get to 5-2. Two consecutive service winners brought him to 5-4. He evened the tie break when Baghdatis' pass attempt wouldn't clear the net, and the Frenchman got to his first set point after a volley error by Baghdatis.
A bee temporarily broke Tsonga's momentum when it buzzed around Baghdatis and forced a short delay at 5-6. Tsonga promptly double faulted to even the score in the tiebreak to 6-6. Still, a big serve gave Tsonga another set point and Baghdatis double faulted to gift the Frenchman the second set.
Both players had break chances early in the third set but it was Tsonga who finally broke Baghdatis in the 11th game and served out the match. The No. 11 seed will take on the winner of the Andy Murray versus Feliciano Lopez match in the fourth round.