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.
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.