AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
NEW YORK: China superstar Li Na has a new man in her life and her husband couldn't be happier.
Ever since Li linked up with Justine Henin's former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, earlier this summer, her career has been reinvigorated with a runner-up spot in Montreal followed by a title in Cincinnati.
It's a success that meant an end to her on-off coaching relationship with husband Jiang Shan, but Li insisted on Monday that her marriage, as well as her career, have both benefitted.
"After I got a new coach I think for both me and my husband it's much easier," said 30-year-old Li after reaching the US Open second round.
"Love is love; coach is coach. You have to separate. After I changed the coach, I didn't say my husband didn't do a good job. I think he's still doing good job.
"But for both sometimes it's too much, you know. Like it's really tough to find a balance between coaching and husband."
Li's triumph in Cincinnati was her first title since her landmark 2011 French Open victory, and her good form continued on Monday when she eased past 20-year-old Briton Heather Watson 6-2, 6-3 to make the second round at the US Open.
It was her first win at Flushing Meadows since her tournament-best performance of a quarter-final run in 2009.
Ninth-seeded Li, who goes on to tackle Australia's Casey Dellacqua for a place in the last 32, believes her win over the 2009 US Open junior champion Watson, was also a victory for mind over matter.
"I am 10 years older than her, so I got more experience on the court. She played very good, but sometimes I had to show her how good I am," explained Li, whose dominance was illustrated by 28 winners to Watson's 10.
"So maybe I was putting a little more pressure onto her. If she looks at me (she knows) I have always been there, so maybe that's a little bit tough for her.
"I should use that against all the young players because they just come to the tournament and maybe they think, 'Oh, she's tough'. Also some girls, they give up in the mind."
Heavy rain scuppered Li's plans for a quickfire win when a downpour sent the players off Court 17 for more than two and a half hours with the Chinese star 5-3 up in the second set.
But she needed just three minutes on the resumption to move into the second round when Watson, the world 71, netted a backhand.
Li's compatriot Zheng Jie, the 28th seed, also made the second round when French opponent Virginie Razzano retired injured with the score level at a set apiece.