Li Na named tennis association‘s ambassador

Updated: 2014-01-11 21:16

By sun xiaochen (

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Occasional tension between tennis star Li Na and domestic media may make her a controversial figure in China, but it is a totally different story overseas.

The world No 4 proved her outspokenness and wit have won over international audiences as much as her athletic abilities when she was named Ambassador of the Year for 2013 of the International Tennis Writers Association before the 2014 Australian Open’s kickoff on Saturday.

She shares the honor with the men’s top double’s pair, the Bryan brothers.

The ITWA’s top annual award recognizes a combination of on-court achievement, conduct that shows tennis is the best possible light and media cooperation.

The award seemed distant from Li’s candid comments that sometimes stoked antagonism between her and Chinese media.

After losing the French Open’s second round last May, Li responded sharply when a reporter asked: “What do you want to say to your fans in China?”

She said: “I just lost the match. And that’s it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them?”

She held her temper in check and thanked fans when the same reporter asked the same question after she won her third-round match in Wimbledon. But she criticized the journalist in a later TV interview.

“How dare he?” the 31-year-old asked in Chinese.

“Doesn’t he have any shame?”

When the video went online, Li’s words drew condemnation from domestic media and outrage on China’s popular micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo — even among her 21 million followers.

Still, Li’s colorful post-match interviews at major international tournaments coupled with her fluent English have won praise from foreign media.

“Li Na and the Bryan brothers both had excellent years on the court, but they have also been great ambassadors for tennis,” ITWA co-president Paul Newman said.

“Because of their success, there are big media demands on their time and both have handled this with great professionalism. They set a very good example to their fellow players.”

Li, who became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title after winning the 2011 French Open, enjoyed another successful year in 2013 when she made it to the AO final, the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the semifinals at the US Open.

Li has set her sights on another Grand Slam title in 2014.

“To win another Grand Slam championship is the goal that I am always chasing,” Li said at her pre-tournament news conference at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Asked if her age would affect her game — Li turns 32 on Feb 26 — Li said it will only make her stronger.

“So far, I’ve never thought about retiring,” she said.

“I can still enjoy the game of tennis and what the sport has brought me. Getting older makes it easier for me to control myself, no matter what kind of troubles I face.”

Li will kick off her main draw to face a qualifier in the opening round on Monday with a potential clash against Czech star Petra Kvitova at the quarters and a possible semi encounter against world No 1 Serena Williams of the United States.