Blog: We’re lucky we found Li Na


Last June, between the Eastbourne and Wimbledon championships in England, Li told her coach she was thinking about giving the game away.

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Expecting Carlos Rodriguez to talk her out of, she instead got a response along the lines of ‘Okay, do it. If you don’t want to play, don’t play’.

It turned her career around.

With a new-found determination to make the best of what she had, Li and Rodriguez trained hard, harder than she ever had before, leading into the Australian Open. It was a stark contrast to her breakthrough Grand Slam win in the French Open in 2011.

“In the French I was feeling I just go for it,” she said. “I didn’t think about win or lose. But this one, I really wish I can do well. And also maybe you guys didn’t know how hard I was working, mentally, to make this one.”

And it’s paid dividends. After a nervous start to the final against Dominika Cibulkova – perhaps knowing how much effort had gone into this Australian Open campaign – she took control after a tight first set tie-break.

With her now-trademark backhand on song, Li reeled off three times as many winners as the Slovakian to win the second set 6-0 and claim her first Australian title.

She’s the first Asian to do so, and the oldest woman, at 31, to win at Melbourne Park.

Already a fan favourite, her famous dry wit then took over.

She thanked her agent for ‘making her rich’, then heaped the praise on her husband Jiang Shan, who Li re-named Dennis in English because it rhymed with ‘tennis’.

To roars of laughter she thanked him for making her drinks and fixing her racquets. “You’re a nice guy,” she smiled. “You’re lucky you found me.”

And we’re lucky to see such a funny and humble champion.