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Tennis: Stosur joins Li in praising Hong Kong Velodrome arena

The BNP Paribas Showdown was held inside the Hong Kong Velodrome, where all 3,000 seats were sold out a month in advance. Photos: SportAsia.

The BNP Paribas Showdown was held inside the new Hong Kong Velodrome, where all 3,000 seats were sold out a month in advance of matches between Li Na and Sam Stosur, and Tomas Berdych and Lleyton Hewitt. Photos: SportAsia.

March 4, 2014: Li Na and Sam Stosur both defended the choice of the Hong Kong Velodrome as the venue for the BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong on Monday night.

 

Stosur beat a misfiring Li – who tallied up 16 double faults – before former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt beat current World No. 5 Tomas Berdych in the first of three major events celebrating World Tennis Day, ahead of exhibitions in London and New York.

 

World No. 2 Li and Stosur, the former World No. 4 and current No. 17, were complimentary about the unusual location for a tennis event, which featured ground-level VIP seating on either side and spectator stands at both ends inside the 250-metre cycling track.

 

The set-up also used parts of the fixed seating outside the cycling track for a total of 3,000 seats, which were sold out a month before the event.

 

Li, 32, was asked whether she felt the spectators watching from outside the cycling track were a bit too far away from the action.

 

“I think it was fine,” Li said. “For me it was fine. Maybe it was a little bit far for the fans as they can’t get really close to see the games, but overall I think it was a good.”

 

Stosur, making her first visit to Hong Kong, admitted she had never even been inside a Velodrome before, never mind played tennis in one, so was a curious spectator herself .

 

“I’ve never seen one in its entirety. I didn’t realise how the steep the track is at certain points,” said the 29-year-old Australian, who beat Li 6-4, 6-3.

 

Sam Stosur beat Li Na in her first time inside a Velodrome.

Sam Stosur beat Li Na in her first time inside a Velodrome.

“It was nice to play, the crowd was great and I didn’t feel uncomfortable out there. It was fantastic. It was a good night and I enjoyed playing the match.”

 

In light of Li’s underwhelming performance following her second Grand Slam success in January’s Australian Open and her highest-ever world ranking, Stosur was also asked if there was anything to be obtained from such matches.

 

“I think it’s great to play these matches. It’s a little bit easier in a lot of ways because you can be a bit more relaxed and have a bit of fun. It’s a nice environment to play in,” said Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion.

 

“It’s obviously different to playing a normal tournament, but I think you can take little bits and pieces out of it. It’s a good opportunity to work on a few things.”

 

Stosur has won all six of her previous ATP contests with Li and managed to continue her winning streak against the Chinese star, who had previously lost only one competitive match in 2014, also winning the Shenzhen Open in early January, but losing to then-World No. 134 Petra Cetkovska in the third round of last month’s Qatar Open.

 

“I haven’t played her for quite a while, so since then she’s worked on the serve and volley part of her game and trying to move forward a bit more. It’s nice to play her and see how she’s playing. Obviously she won the Aussie Open, so she has been in great form,” said Stosur, who beat Li 6-1, 6-0 in their previous meeting at the 2011 WTA Championships.

 

“It’s by no means easy playing her, but for whatever reason, I’ve got a really good record against her. Tennis match-ups can be like that. I’ve got a great record against her and terrible against other players.”

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