Robson magnanimous in defeat
Laura Robson conceded Li Na was too good for her this time as the British number one exited the US Open in the third round.
Twelve months ago the teenager announced her arrival on the world stage with back-to-back wins over Kim Clijsters and Li to reach the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time.
But fifth seed Li was in very good form on Friday and, although Robson upped her level in the second set, it was not enough as the Chinese player won 6-2 7-5.
Robson said: "I thought she played really well. She didn't give me too many chances in the rally, so I never felt I got a rhythm going with my groundstrokes.
"She was returning really deep. There wasn't a lot I could do in some points.
"It was quite windy when we started the match, so on one side you would have to play more spin and, I wasn't quite doing that very well."
The pair opened the schedule on Arthur Ashe, which meant they began the match in front of virtually empty stands, but Robson insisted that had not been a factor in her slow start.
"I wasn't expecting it to be full," she said. "I have played on there a couple times, so I'm used to it when it's empty as well. I thought by the end of the match it was quite loud."
Robson did not look comfortable throughout the first set, spraying her forehand to all parts and struggling on her serve as she won only one of the first six games.
Li was eager for revenge and when on form is one of the most consistent and cleanest strikers of a tennis ball on the tour.
Her returns were working particularly well, arrowing in on Robson's feet before she had a chance to prepare for the next shot.
Robson, a seed for the first time at a grand slam, responded well to losing the first set by winning the first three games of the second and she was within sight of a fourth game in a row at 0-30.
But Li generally served very well, 11 aces more than cancelling out her six double faults, and the chance quickly disappeared.
The Chinese pegged Robson back to 3-3 and the crucial break came in the 11th game before Li clinched victory on her second match point with a second-serve ace.
Robson's statistics did not make pretty reading, with 30 unforced errors and only seven winners, but that was in a large part down to the excellent play of her opponent.
It was nevertheless a disappointing end to a promising week for the teenager, who demonstrated a growing maturity in her first two wins against Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Caroline Garcia, but she should not fall too far from her current ranking of 32.
Li's performance, meanwhile, showed the step the 19-year-old still has to make to move to the next level.
Robson said: "(I'm) not too far (away). I think I'm going in the right direction. I feel like I'm improving and working on a more all-around game. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I'm willing to do that.
"I'm disappointed about today, for sure, and I thought I could have played a lot better. But I always knew it was going to be a tough match. All in all, I guess it was an average week."
Expectations had been tempered going into the tournament by a wrist injury that meant Robson had played just two matches since Wimbledon.
Her right wrist was taped for every match and she took painkillers during her victory over Garcia.
Robson will now take a short break to allow it to recover fully, and also to have her wisdom teeth out, but she is hoping to be fit for the Guangzhou International in two weeks' time, where she reached her first WTA Tour final last year.
Robson said: "(I'll have) a rest just so it settles down completely and I will see my doctor when I get back. I have to get my wisdom teeth taken out as well.
"All the other girls in the locker room are telling me their horror stories. 'Oh yeah, I pulled my gauze out and it was just blood.' So that's not too nice.
"Jamie Hampton was trying to scare me. She was like, 'Oh, I couldn't do anything for three weeks.' I don't really listen to her. Hopefully it'll just be a couple of days."