Tennis community bubbling with enthusiasm

Updated: 2011-01-30 08:11

By Yu Yilei and Lei Lei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Although Li Na was foiled in her attempt to land China's first-ever Grand Slam title, the impact of her success at the Australian Open is enormous and is expected to give tennis in China a huge boost.

Fans, officials and her fellow national teammates all credited Li for giving them inspiration through her heroic deeds Down Under.

"She is a champion in my eyes, not only because she played wonderfully with Kim (Clijsters) in the final, but also because her achievement will attract unprecedented attention to China's tennis," China's tennis chief, Sun Jinfang, told China Daily.

"She has shown Chinese are able to do well in a sport dominated by Westerners."

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people watched Li's game live on Saturday, including most of her national teammates. Although they were disappointed with the final loss, they praised Li for making such a major breakthrough.


China’s Li Na delivered a touching tribute to her husband and coach, Jiang Shan, after her heartbreaking loss to Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open final.

Li, who earlier in the tournament raised laughs by talking about Jiang’s snoring and how she likes spending money on his

credit card, told the crowd she didn’t really mean it.

“I made a lot of jokes about him but it doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, handsome or ugly, I will always follow you

and always love you,” she said, after her three-set loss.

Jiang is credited with coaxing Li back to tennis after a two-year break. Li also fought hard with Chinese authorities to let Jiang coach her, a move which paid dividends when she became the first Chinese to reach a Grand Slam final.

Despite her loss, Li, who has been hailed as “pioneer” on a par with idolized basketball player Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang, is projected to rise to a careerhigh world No 7 when the new rankings are announced next week.


"I'm very proud of Li. No matter if she wins or not, she has already made history by reaching a Grand Slam final. Chinese tennis will remain strong in the world for a long time after this (Li's effort)," said China's men's No 3 player, Bai Yan, who is ranked No 353 in the world.

"This is not an end, but a beginning for her. And maybe this is a new beginning for China's tennis."

And the women's players are already thinking about their futures seriously after watching Li's gutsy performance.

"You know, watching Li playing like that in her first Grand Slam final is truly inspiring. I wish one day I can also be there," said the 21-year-old Liu Wanting, the world No 747.

Even the male players, who have been living in the shadows of their female compatriots, are now brimming with confidence.

"A women's player has reached this and I believe a Chinese men's player can also make it one day," said Bai, who reached the second round of the Shanghai Masters last year by defeating former world top-10 player Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the WTA, also labeled Li as a "terrific ambassador for women's tennis and a national hero" in China.

"I want to congratulate Li Na on her breakthrough performance at the Australian Open her success will undoubtedly have an exponential impact on the growth of the sport in the world's most populous country.

"Tennis is a truly global sport and Li Na's success has been a great example of how a player can make a indelible impact on millions of people."

China Daily

(China Daily 01/30/2011 page8)


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