The former French Open champion, runner-up in Sydney last year and winner in 2011, took almost two hours to dispatch her the 33rd-ranked opponent in 30-degree temperatures.
Fourth seed Li only arrived in Australia a day earlier, having beaten Klara Zakopalova to win the Shenzhen title, where the temperature outside hovered just above freezing.
While Li struggled acclimatising, tournament organisers will be keeping a close eye on weather conditions tomorrow. Sydney is expected to hit a maximum of 43 celsius as Australia swelters in a heatwave that has sparked raging bush fires.
Warm northwest winds are also expected to increase on-court temperatures closer to 50. Officials will provide shading, ice towels and additional water and sports drinks for the players, while staff will work shorter shifts to try to mitigate the effects of the heat.