Li, No. 3 in the rankings and seeded first this week, defeated Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. She was 5-for-5 in saving break points in the first and third sets but 6-of-9 in losing the second.
Still Li won 60 percent of the points on serve and 50 percent off Rybarikova's serve in gaining a spot in the third round. It was her first match since she won the Australian Open.
The top eight seeds for the Qatar Open were given first-round byes. That group includes seven Top 10-ranked players and all won Wednesday.
The only top seed who failed to advance was No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki, who is 11th in the rankings. Yanina Wickmayer topped Wozniacki 6-4, 7-5 with six breaks in Wozniacki's 11 games serving. The loss dropped Wozniacki to 3-3 on the year.
No. 2-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska controlled the second set against Sorana Cirstea for a 7-5, 6-0 win. After a first set in which the points were split 36-36, Radwanska won 70 percent (26-of-37) of the points in the second.
Third-seeded Petra Kvitova edged Venus Williams 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7) while No. 4-seed Sara Errani was a 6-0, 6-4 winner over Hsieh Su-Wei and fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic won two-thirds of the points in a 6-0, 6-2 rout of Karin Knapp.
No. 6-seeded Angelique Kerber beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 and seventh-seeded Simona Halep just got by Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).