Paris: Defending champion Li Na relied on her wealth of experience to end the challenge of plucky 20-year-old American Christina McHale with an energy-sapping 3-6 6-2 6-1 third-round win at the French Open on Saturday.
Seventh seed Li, who last year became the first player from an Asian nation to win a singles grand-slam title, needed almost two hours on a sunsoaked Court Suzanne Lenglen to break the world number 36's resilience.
The 30-year-old Li struggled with her serve and fell a break down in sixth game but immediately broke back. But McHale produced more pace to break again to bag the opening set after 48 minutes.
"Tennis is the best of three sets. So even if I lose the first set I still have a chance," Li told a news conference.
"In the first set I think I was always following what she did. I felt like she was the champion on the court.
"But I changed a little bit at the beginning of the second set to play my way."