Robson ready to dig in regardless
Li Na can expect Laura Robson to keep fighting in their third-round rematch at the US Open even if the teenager is playing "a bit pants".
It was in New York 12 months ago where Robson announced that she had come of age at the top level with back-to-back wins over Kim Clijsters and Li.
Now the pair meet again at the same stage on Friday after Robson posted an impressive victory over fellow 19-year-old Caroline Garcia in the second round.
The Londoner has made steady progress in the intervening 12 months, reaching her first WTA Tour final and performing well at more grand slams, making the third round at the Australian Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon.
She is seeded for the first time at a slam and impressed most against Garcia with her composure and mature play.
Asked where she felt she had improved most since facing Li last year, Robson said: "I think just my willingness to stick with it even when I'm playing a bit pants. Just wait for them to make a few errors when I need to."
Robson headed into the tournament without many matches behind her because of a wrist injury and called the trainer at the end of the first set against Garcia to have it retaped and take some painkillers.
She has played extremely well despite that, showing more variety in her game and a greater willingness to come to the net.
Robson began working with Andy Murray's former coach Miles Maclagan after the French Open and is happy with how her game is developing.
"I think my volleys have improved a lot," she said. "I just feel a lot more able to vary my game up during matches.
"I hit quite a few nice slices, I'm defending a bit better as well. I think I can still improve a lot, but things are going in the right direction."
Robson has made a habit of beating big-name players, but last year's win over Li remains arguably her most impressive.
Following up a first victory on the big stage is always a challenge, and Robson recovered from losing the second set on a tie-break to win the match convincingly in three.
She said: "I remember being so nervous when I walked on court but just fighting through that and sticking with her.
"I think she made a lot of mistakes in the first set, which helped quite a lot. Hopefully she'll do that again. It should be a good match."
This match has a different dynamic, with Robson having performed consistently well at the slams and the 30th seed herself.
"She's still the higher-ranked player," said Robson. "I'm going to go out there like I approach every other match and just try my best on court and try and play my own game."
The spotlight on the teenager is growing all the time, reaching a peak at Wimbledon, and she feels she is learning to cope with it.
"I think it does get a little bit easier, but not a lot," she said. "What I've liked so far here is I've gone onto the court pretty confident and stayed that way throughout the match.
"I did lose my serve at the end of the second set (against Garcia), but I don't think it was due to nerves or anything like that. I just played a bad game. So hopefully I'll take that onto the court in the next round."
Whatever Robson's talent, Li is still a level above at the moment and has been in good form on hard courts.
She began the year by reaching the final at the Australian Open, losing to Victoria Azarenka, and is eager for a chance to avenge last year's year's defeat.
"I really looking forward to play against her," said Li. "For sure it's really challenging. She's a lefty, an aggressive player. I can see if I can prove myself after one year, whether I can do better than last year."