Li Na

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Li Na
李娜
Li Na Photo by Sascha Grabow.jpg
Li Na at the 2010 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany
Country  China
Residence Wuhan, Hubei, China
Born (1982-02-26) February 26, 1982 (age 32)
Wuhan, Hubei, China
Height 1.72 metres (5 ft 8 in)
Turned pro 1999
Plays Right handed (two-handed backhand)
Prize money USD$ 16,393,874
Singles
Career record 496–184 (72.94%)
Career titles 9 WTA, 19 ITF
Highest ranking No. 2 (February 17, 2014)
Current ranking No. 2 (March 31, 2014)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (2014)
French Open W (2011)
Wimbledon QF (2006, 2010, 2013)
US Open SF (2013)
Other tournaments
Championships F (2013)
Olympic Games SF – 4th (2008)
Doubles
Career record 121–50
Career titles 2 WTA, 16 ITF
Highest ranking No. 54 (August 28, 2006)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open 2R (2006, 2007)
French Open 2R (2006, 2007)
Wimbledon 2R (2006)
US Open 3R (2005)
Other Doubles tournaments
Olympic Games 2R (2012)
Last updated on: June 17, 2013.
Li Na
Chinese 李娜

Li Na (born February 26, 1982) is a Chinese professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 2 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA). To date, Li has won nine WTA singles titles including two grand slam singles titles at the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open. Li's victory at the former event made her the first and only grand slam singles champion from an Asian country. Prior to this, Li had already become the first player representing Asia to appear in a grand slam singles final, a milestone she achieved at the 2011 Australian Open. Li was also the runner-up at the 2013 Australian Open and 2013 WTA Tour Championships, a three time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and a semi-finalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and 2013 US Open. Li achieved a career high singles ranking of world No. 2 on February 17, 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Li, Na was born on February 26, 1982, in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Her father Li Shengpeng (李盛鹏) was a professional badminton player and later worked as a sales rep for a Wuhan-based company. He died from a rare cardiovascular disease when Li Na was 14.[1]

At age six, Li, Na started playing badminton, following in her father's footsteps. Just before she turned eight, Li made the transition from badminton to tennis when she and her parents were convinced by coach Xia Xiyao of the Wuhan youth tennis club that this would be the right career move for her.[2] Li joined China's National Tennis Team in 1997. In the following year, Li, sponsored by Nike, went to John Newcombe Academy in Texas to study tennis.[3] She studied there for 10 months and returned to China. Li turned professional in 1999 at age sixteen.

At the end of 2002, Li left the national tennis team to study part-time at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), where she completed her bachelor's degree in journalism in 2009. The Chinese media cited various reasons for this. Some reported that the relationship between her and her teammate, future husband Jiang Shan (姜山), was opposed by the national team's management,[4] some reported that her coach Yu Liqiao (余丽桥) was too strict and demanding,[5] while other reports claimed that her request for a personal coach did not go through. However, some regarded that it was just the health problem leading to the retirement. [6]

However, Li returned to the national team in 2004. Jiang Shan married Li on January 27, 2006, and became her personal coach. Li quit the national team[7] as well as the state-run sports system in 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players. This change was called "Fly Solo" (单飞) by Chinese media.[8] As a result, Li had the freedom to hire her own coaching staff and she would be solely responsible for the cost of training and coaching and tour expense. She could keep more of her winnings,[9] with only 8 percent of her winnings going to the Chinese Tennis Association development fund as opposed to 65 percent previously. In the summer of 2012, the requirement of contribution to the Chinese tennis development fund was lifted and Li can keep all her prize money. [10]

Li has a tattoo on her chest, and hid it for many years since tattoos are not widely accepted in China, especially on women.[11][12]

Tennis career[edit]

1999–2002: Dominance on the ITF Circuit[edit]

Li turned professional in 1999, and that year won three of the very first four singles tournaments she entered on the ITF Circuit, two at Shenzhen and one at Westende, Belgium. She also won all of her first seven ITF doubles tournaments she entered.

In 2000, she won a total of 52 singles matches on the ITF circuit, more than any other player, notching another eight tournament titles including one at $50,000 level, two at $25,000, and an unbroken run of four successive $10,000 tournament wins in March and April.

Notable individual victories in the course of the year included wins over Flavia Pennetta, Emmanuelle Gagliardi, Maria Elena Camerin, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yayuk Basuki.

In June, after Li's world ranking had risen to No. 136 on the strength of her ITF performances alone, she gained direct entry into her first WTA Tour event at Tashkent. Despite winning the first set, Li lost her first WTA singles match to Anna Zaporozhanova in three sets, but she captured the women's doubles title at Tashkent with Li Ting against Zaporozhanova and Iroda Tulyaganova.

By the end of 2000, Li had won four WTA singles matches, this brought her cumulative ITF singles title count up to 11. That year, she also won seven more ITF doubles events, 6 of them with Li Ting.

Li was mostly absent from the tour in 2001. She won two further $25,000 ITF singles tournaments, defeating Roberta Vinci in the final at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Liu Nan-Nan in the final at Guangzhou in July, but then played only one further match for the rest of the year, leading her ranking to fall to no. 303 by the year's close.

She won her 15th career ITF doubles tournament at Hangzhou in March.

In 2002, she came through qualifying to win her first $75,000 singles tournament at Midland, USA in February, defeating Laura Granville, Tatiana Perebiynis, and Mashona Washington en route to the title, the 14th of her career. But she then played only one more match (a loss to Zuzana Ondrášková in the $50,000 event at Dinan, France that April), followed by a lengthy absence from the circuit for the next 25 months.

Sources vary as to the causes of this absence, the Chinese media mostly cited the conflict between her and the China's National Tennis Team's administration and coaching staff.[4][5][6] Some claimed that she just wanted a break from professional tennis so she could concentrate on her studies at university.

2004: Successful return to professional tennis[edit]

In May 2004, Li returned to the competition after having not played since 2002. Although she was unranked, she won 26 successive matches to notch three further $25,000 tournament wins and another $50,000 title, increasing her career singles title count to 18, only to have her winning streak finally snapped by Evgenia Linetskaya in the semifinal of the $50,000 Bronx tournament that August. However, she won her 16th ITF doubles tournament at the same event, the 17th overall doubles title of her career.

That September, she lost in the final of a $25,000 tournament to compatriot Zheng Jie, before returning to the WTA circuit, thanks to a wildcard entry into qualifying at the Beijing. There, she defeated Antonella Serra Zanetti, Marta Domachowska, and Nicole Pratt before losing in the deciding-set tie-break after a very close second-round main-draw tussle against newly crowned US Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, during which she held match points against Kuznetsova. The Russian afterwards praised her Chinese opponent, stating that she had felt as though she was up against a top-5 player.

The very next week, Li battled her way through qualifying into the WTA event at Guangzhou (a Tier IV event at the time, though since has been upgraded to Tier III), then beat Vera Dushevina, Jelena Janković, Kristina Brandi, and Li Ting in the main draw to reach the final, where she overcame Martina Suchá to win her first WTA Tour title. By doing so, Li became the first Chinese tennis player to win a WTA event.

On the back of the ranking points accrued through this result, on October 4, 2004, she broke into the WTA top 100 for the first time.

To cap off her most successful year as a singles player yet, she competed in two $50,000 ITF tournaments at Shenzhen, winning the first outright to bring her the 19th ITF singles title and 20th overall singles title of her career, but losing in the quarterfinals of the second to lower-ranked country-woman Yan Zi. These results elevated Li Na to world No. 80 by the close of the year, a year in which she won 51 singles matches and lost just four.

2005[edit]

2005 saw Li finally abandoning the ITF circuit to focus solely on WTA-level events. She began the year with a second-round performance at Gold Coast and a semifinal showing at Hobart, but losing to fellow Chinese player and eventual tournament champion Zheng Jie. She then made her Grand Slam debut at the 2005 Australian Open, advancing to the third round with wins over Laura Granville and Shinobu Asagoe before losing to Maria Sharapova. In early February, she reached the quarterfinals at Hyderabad and qualified for Doha where she was narrowly beaten by Patty Schnyder in the first round of the main draw. After a victory over Ai Sugiyama in the first round at Dubai the following week, it was Schnyder once again who stopped her from reaching the later stages of the event.

After taking a month off from competition, Li returned at Estoril in late April, defeating Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro, Nicole Pratt, Dally Randriantefy, and then crushing Dinara Safina to reach her second WTA Tour final. Li was denied the title by Czech qualifier Lucie Šafářová, who prevailed in a close three-set match. At Rabat in May, Li reached the semifinal stage, but further success ultimately proved elusive for her. With the score leveled at 3–3, she retired due to a right ankle sprain while clashing with Zheng Jie. Reaching this semifinal propelled her to a career-high singles ranking of world No. 33, but the injury she had sustained was destined to keep her out of action for the next three months. On her return at Los Angeles in August, she fell in the first round to Anna Chakvetadze of Russia. The following week, however, at the Canadian Open, she once more beat Jelena Janković and María Vento-Kabchi, before losing to Nadia Petrova in the third round.

It was Lindsay Davenport who proved her undoing in her next two tournaments, beating her in the first round of the US Open, and at the semifinal stage in Bali in September, but not before Li Na had avenged her previous year's defeat by Yan Zi in the second round of the same tournament. The following week, another highly ranked American player, Jill Craybas, narrowly defeated Li Na in a close three-set first-round match at Beijing. Li Na commenced her defence of her Guangzhou title; but she was prevented from completing it in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Yan Zi, who thereby edged out in front in their head-to-head record once again. This second loss in three head-to-heads against Yan proved to be Li's last match of 2005; and in her absence from the Shenzhen $50,000 tournaments where she had notched up some ranking points late the previous year, she found herself slipping further in the rankings from the high-point of No. 33 that she had reached in the spring before her injury break, to No. 56 at the year's close.

2006: First Chinese Grand Slam quarter finalist[edit]

With nearly all her remaining ranking points to defend concentrated in a little over the first four months of the year, Li Na began the year faced with the challenge of equaling her strong results from the early part of 2005 in order to maintain her position in the middle reaches of the WTA top 100. Early-round draws against high-ranked players towards the beginning of 2006 took a heavy toll on Li's singles ranking, bringing it slipping down to no. 71 by the end of February.

She returned with a career-best performance at Tier I events by reaching the semifinal at Berlin. On the way there, she achieved her first victory over a current top-10-ranked player as she ousted Patty Schnyder for the first time at the quarterfinal stage. However, this match left her with a muscle sprain, and she lost to Nadia Petrova in the semifinal. Nonetheless, her performance at this high-level tournament saw her ranked no. 39. Joining the WTA grass-court season for the first time at the DFS Classic tournament at Birmingham in June, she managed another third-round finish with wins over Mashona Washington and grass-court specialist Eleni Daniilidou, both in straight sets, then lost for the third time in three meetings to Maria Sharapova. Her ranking following this tournament was no. 30, which was at that time the highest ever ranking achieved by a Chinese woman.

At the same event, partnering Jelena Janković, she notched up her second career WTA doubles title, almost exactly six years from her first at Tashkent. An early retirement against Alona Bondarenko in the first round of the Ondina Open at 's-Hertogenbosch the following week curtailed her final competitive preparations for her debut appearance at Wimbledon. But with an entry ranking of 30th, she found herself seeded 27th after some withdrawals, and thus achieved another first for her country in becoming the first Chinese woman ever to be seeded for entry into a Grand Slam tournament.

At Wimbledon, she reached the fourth round with comfortable straight-sets wins over respected grass-court players Virginie Razzano and recent Birmingham semifinalist Meilen Tu, followed by victory against 10th seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, resulting in her being the first Chinese player ever to reach any Grand Slam quarterfinal. Li rose to a new career high WTA ranking of no. 20 following the tournament, even though she ultimately lost her quarterfinal match against Kim Clijsters in two close sets. She reached the quarterfinals at Stockholm, and the fourth round at the US Open, where, as the 24th seed, she was beaten by eventual champion Maria Sharapova in two sets. She then reached the quarterfinals at the China Open, where she was beaten by Svetlana Kuznetsova, and in Guangzhou.

2007[edit]

Li Na at 2008 Fortis Championships Luxembourg

Li Na started the year by participating a Tier III event in Gold Coast, Australia, where she reached the second round. The next week, she competed in Sydney. She defeated Francesca Schiavone in the first round, Elena Dementieva in the second, saving five match points, and Katarina Srebotnik in the quarterfinal. Then, she made it to the semifinals, losing a tough match to Kim Clijsters, 5–7 in the third set. However, she rose to a career high of no.16 afterwards.

Li Na followed her strong showing at the Medibank tournament with an equally strong showing at the 2007 Australian Open, where she advanced to the fourth round. Seeded 19th, Li dispatched Elena Bovina and Lourdes Domínguez Lino in straight sets through the first two rounds, leading to a matchup with no. 9 Dinara Safina. The match was postponed due to rain, but Li handedly beat Safina to advance to the fourth round to play Swiss star, no. 6 Martina Hingis. Due to a rain delay and the fact that Hingis played on Rod Laver Arena, a roofed court, on the originally scheduled day, Hingis had an extra day of rest. The match the previous day seemed to have no effect, as Li took the first set from Hingis. However, Na faded as the match went on and lost while committing 69 unforced errors. Despite the loss, the tournament was a success for Na, as it marked the third straight time in a Grand Slam that she advanced at least to the fourth round.

At the Tier I Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan, Li advanced to the second round, defeating Lilia Osterloh before losing to Samantha Stosur in two sets, converting 0 of 11 break points. At the important Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, Li made a strong showing, advancing to the semifinals. She lost to Daniela Hantuchová in the semifinal. She continued her good form at the Miami Masters, losing just three games in her first two matches against Tamira Paszek and Katarina Srebotnik, before stunning fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters in three sets. She then lost in the quarterfinals to Anna Chakvetadze.

She then moved onto the green clay of Amelia Island, where she suffered a shock second-round exit, after receiving a first round bye, to former top-20 player Karolina Šprem in straight sets. At the Family Circle Cup held in Charleston, South Carolina, she fell in the third round to Anabel Medina Garrigues. After losing in a grass tune-up event in Birmingham, Li pulled out of every tournament she was to play in the summer, including Wimbledon and the US Open, citing a rib injury.

2008[edit]

Li Na had not played a professional match in half a year and had resultantly slipped to no. 29 in the WTA rankings when she returned from her rib injury in January 2008 to compete at the 2008 Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts in Gold Coast, Australia. In the first round, she narrowly defeated seventh seed Sybille Bammer. After a comfortable second round victory over wildcard Monique Adamczak, she was drawn to meet the top seed Nicole Vaidišová in the quarterfinals. Li won their encounter in straight sets, advancing to the semifinals, where she edged past Patty Schnyder.[13] In the final, she narrowly prevailed against Victoria Azarenka, not only ending her 3-year title drought (since Guangzhou 2004) but scoring her second WTA singles title of her career.

Despite rising back up to world No. 24 following this victory, she then withdrew from the 2008 Medibank International in Sydney, after suffering a right knee injury. Her failure to defend her previous year's semifinal performance at this event cost her 125 ranking points, which dipped her ranking back down to no. 30 for the week beginning 14 January. Going into the 2008 Australian Open, she had a further 140 ranking points to defend from her fourth-round performance in 2007. Faced with a relatively lenient draw in the early rounds, she survived a close three-set tussle with Séverine Brémond in the first round, before surpassing Maria Elena Camerin in straight sets in round two. A revitalised Marta Domachowska remained between her and the defence of her ranking points, and although Li Na won the first set convincingly, she faltered thereafter and finally ceded the match to her Polish opponent by a single break of serve in the closely fought deciding set.

Having slipped three places to world No. 33 by the time she entered the Tier II tournament at Antwerp in early February, she nonetheless progressed to the semifinals with back-to-back-to-back straight-sets wins over Russian veteran Elena Likhovtseva, Slovak world No. 45 Dominika Cibulková, and on-form Swedish world No. 66 Sofia Arvidsson. However, she withered in the semifinals against world No. 47 Karin Knapp, despite having taken an early lead with a break of service in the first set, ultimately ceding the match to her Italian opponent in two sets. This tournament brought her back up within the top 30 at world No. 29.

The next week in the Tier I 2008 Qatar Total Open, Li met Likhovtseva again in the first round. This time, after taking the first set comfortably, she was challenged to a much tougher battle, but eventually won in three sets. In round 2, she scored her second straight-sets victory in four career head-to-heads against Russian world No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, saving a set point in the first set tie-break, before recovering to win. In the third round, she enjoyed a more comfortable victory over Israeli world No. 17 Shahar Pe'er, recovering from a 1–3 deficit in the second set. In the quarterfinals, she met her old rival and friend world No. 4 Jelena Janković, coming into the match with a winning 3–1 head-to-head record to her credit against the Serbian player. By defeating Janković she extended this record to 4:1 and moved into the semifinals, where she played Vera Zvonareva, against whom she had won both of her previous encounters. Despite taking the first set, Li lost the second by the same scoreline; and although she was 3–2 up in the final set, she then ceded four successive games to her opponent to lose the match.

Her ranking having risen back to no. 23 on the strength of this performance, she was prevented from consolidating on this recovery by suffering a right knee injury, which forced her to pull out of her scheduled entries into both the Tier II event at Bangalore in early March and the Tier I tournament at Indian Wells in the middle of the month. She returned to action at the International Women's Open in Eastbourne, winning one round before losing to Nadia Petrova. She then contested Wimbledon, defeating Anastasia Rodionova before losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

At the Beijing Olympics, following early-round victories against world No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ayumi Morita, and Kaia Kanepi, she went on to defeat one of the favourites, Venus Williams, in the quarterfinals. Li was trailing 1–4 in the first set, but managed to strengthen her game to win in straight sets. Li lost her semifinal match to sixth seed Dinara Safina and was then defeated in the bronze final by Vera Zvonareva. At the following US Open, Li was defeated by the Beijing Olympics gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the fourth round.

In the 2008 Porsche Grand Prix, the unseeded Li defeated no. 1 ranked Serena Williams in the second round in three sets. Li thus became only the second Chinese player to defeat a world No. 1 player, following Zheng Jie's victory over Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon in 2008.

2009[edit]

Li Na at the 2009 US Open

Li withdrew from both the inaugural Brisbane International, where she was defending champion (as she won the title at Gold Coast in 2008), and the Australian Open because of a right-knee injury. She made her comeback at the Paris Open. In the first round, she beat Ágnes Szávay, but in the second round she lost to second-seeded Jelena Janković.

In the first round of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Li lost to Russian Elena Vesnina in three sets. Unseeded at the Monterrey Open, she defeated world No. 10 and top seed Agnieszka Radwańska in a first round match that lasted over two hours. In the second round, she beat Petra Cetkovská and then advanced to the semifinals after defeating Lucie Šafářová. Li then moved into her fifth career tour final, after beating sixth-seeded Iveta Benešová. However, Li lost to second-seeded Marion Bartoli in the final in straight sets. Li then played in the Premier event at Indian Wells, where she defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn, Patty Schnyder, and Amélie Mauresmo, all in straight sets, to advance to the fourth round, where she lost to eventual champion Vera Zvonareva.

She then reached the quarterfinals of the Premier event in Miami, where she beat qualifier Urszula Radwańska in the first round and upset 29th seed Aleksandra Wozniak to reach the third round, where she caused a big upset by defeating the previous week's Indian Wells champion, 6th-seeded Vera Zvonareva in three sets. This victory was particularly important for Li, as she had been beaten by Zvonareva the week before at Indian Wells. She then faced unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round and beat her in three sets to set up a quarterfinal match with the top seed and world No. 1 Serena Williams, a match which she lost in a tight three-setter. Because of her strong performance, her ranking went up to world No. 29 from world No. 40.

Na's next event was the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open in Paris. As the 25th seed, she won her first round against Polish Marta Domachowska. She then defeated Timea Bacsinszky and Olga Govortsova. She then lost to unseeded, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. After this impressive result, she jumped six rankings up to no. 20. She started her grass-court season as the fourth seed at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and advanced to the final with a win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. However, Na was defeated by Magdaléna Rybáriková in the final. Na was seeded 19th at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships. She defeated Galina Voskoboeva in the first round and Olga Govortsova in the second round, but lost to no. 11 Agnieszka Radwańska in the third round.

At the 2009 Bank of the West Classic, she lost to Serena Williams in the first round, and at the 2009 LA Women's Tennis Championships p/b Herbalife, she withdrew due to injury during her match with Urszula Radwańska of Poland. Seeded 18th at the 2009 US Open, she reached her first US Open quarterfinals, where she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters. En route to the quarterfinals, she defeated Ioana Raluca Olaru, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Maria Kirilenko, and Francesca Schiavone all in straight sets. Seeded 15th at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, Li Na won her opening match against Alizé Cornet. She then defeated Vera Dushevina before beating Kateryna Bondarenko. In the quarterfinal, she defeated Victoria Azarenka in three sets, two of which were tiebreaks where though she failed in serving for the match twice in the last set. Li lost in the semifinals to Jelena Janković. Li finished the year at world No. 15, her career-high year-end ranking.

2010: First Grand Slam semifinal and ascent to top 10[edit]

Li Na at the 2010 Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix

Li's first tournament of 2010 was the 2010 ASB Classic in Auckland, where she was seeded second. She was defeated by Kaia Kanepi in the first round. In the Medibank International, she defeated fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki but lost to Flavia Pennetta in the second round.

Li was seeded 16th at the 2010 Australian Open. She defeated world No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round and then came from a set and 3–5 down to defeat world No. 6 Venus Williams, in her first Australian Open quarterfinal and only her third Major quarterfinal. In the semifinals, she lost to Serena Williams in two highly competitive tiebreaks. As a result of this performance, Li was the first Chinese woman ever to be ranked in the top 10 of women's professional tennis.

At the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Li, the eighth seed, defeated María José Martínez Sánchez in the second round. She then came from a 6–3 5–2 deficit to defeat Marion Bartoli in the third round. Li was forced to retire in her quarterfinals match against Shahar Pe'er. Li continued her season at the inaugural Malaysian Open. As second seed, she fell to Tatjana Malek in the first round. As seventh seed at the 2010 BNP Paribas Open, Li fell to Elena Baltacha in the second round. Li was 8th seed at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open, but fell to Timea Bacsinszky in the second round.

At the 2010 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Li defeated defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, before falling to eventual runner-up Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals. Li was 11th seed at the 2010 French Open. She fell to eventual champion and world No. 17 Francesca Schiavone in the third round. Li was seeded first at the 2010 Aegon Classic. She defeated 4th seed Aravane Rezaï in the semifinals, and 2nd seeded Maria Sharapova in the final to win the tournament. With the win, Li returned to the top 10 in the WTA rankings. Seeded seventh at the 2010 Aegon International, Li retired in the first round with a knee injury after winning the first set against Elena Baltacha. Li was seeded ninth at Wimbledon. She defeated seventh seed Agnieszka Radwańska to advance to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the second time in her career, where she lost to world No. 1 and defending champion Serena Williams. By going into the last eight, Li once again returned to the top 10 in the WTA rankings.

At the 2010 US Open, she started off as the eighth seed, but fell at the first hurdle to Kateryna Bondarenko. Li was an alternate at the 2010 WTA Tour Championships, but did not receive a chance to play. Instead, she played at the 2010 WTA Tournament of Champions as the first seed. However she was defeated by Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round, putting an end to her 2010 season, her best season to date. She finished just outside the top 10 at world No. 11. At the end of the year, Li's coach Thomas Högstedt chose to leave her in order to coach Maria Sharapova.

2011: Historic victory at Roland Garros[edit]

Li Na in 2011 French Open semifinal

Li played in the Medibank International Sydney as the eighth seed, making fast work of Australian wildcard Anastasia Rodionova and winning a tough three-set match against Virginie Razzano in the first two rounds. In the quarterfinals she met two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and came through with a win. She defeated surprise qualifier Bojana Jovanovski in the semifinals to advance to her eighth WTA final.[14] Li faced world No. 3 Kim Clijsters in the final, and despite trailing 5–0 in the first set, Li went on to defeat Clijsters, capturing the fourth WTA title of her career.

Li was the ninth seed at the Australian Open, where she reached her first Grand Slam singles final, the first tennis player representing an Asian country to achieve that feat. On the way she ousted eighth seed Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. She defeated world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals to reach the final, after saving a match point in the second set. She faced no. 3 seed Kim Clijsters (whom she had defeated at the Medibank International). Although Li claimed the first set, Clijsters was able to rally back and claim the championship. Despite the loss, Li's ranking rose to a career high of world No. 7.

Despite a good early start to the season, Li then had a five-match losing streak. After receiving byes into the second rounds, she lost in a hardly fought match against Yanina Wickmayer at the Dubai Tennis Championships, lucky loser Klára Zakopalová at the Qatar Ladies Open and countrywoman Peng Shuai at Indian Wells. Despite this, after Indian Wells she peaked at a career-high ranking of world No. 6 due to Jelena Janković's failures to defend her points.

Li's losing streak continued, when she was upset in the Miami Masters by Johanna Larsson. With this loss, and Andy Murray's loss at Miami, both Australian Open finalists had yet to win a match since their first major final. Despite Li's successive losses, her no. 6 ranking was ensured due to Samantha Stosur's inability to defend her clay-season points. After a week, she fell back to no. 7. Li then broke her losing streak by winning her first-round match against Anastasija Sevastova in Stuttgart. However, she lost to Sabine Lisicki in the second round. Even though she was not able to defend all her Stuttgart ranking points, she rose back to no. 6. However, due to her disappointing results, Li Na sacked her husband as coach and hired Dane Michael Mortensen.[citation needed]

She entered the Madrid Open as sixth seed. In the first two rounds, she defeated María José Martínez Sánchez and Iveta Benešová without much difficulty. In the third round she got the better of Roberta Vinci coming back from a set deficit. She then defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands after recovering from a break down in the deciding set. This victory marked her the first semifinals appearance in Madrid, where she lost to eventual champion Petra Kvitová.

Li's resurgence continued into the Internazionali d'Italia. Seeded fourth, she received a bye in the first round. She won her opening match against Lourdes Domínguez Lino and defeated Jarmila Gajdošová and Gréta Arn in the next two rounds en route to back-to-back semifinals on clay. However, she lost to Samantha Stosur in two sets.

Li won her first Major title at the French Open on June 4, by doing so she made history and became the first tennis player from an Asian country to win Grand Slam singles champion. Seeded sixth, she defeated Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová, Silvia Soler Espinosa, Sorana Cîrstea, ninth seed Petra Kvitová, fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, seventh seed Maria Sharapova, and fifth seed and defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the final, a match that was watched by 330 million viewers worldwide.[15] After the match, Li Na was praised by the Chinese media,[16] and her popularity throughout China was expected to grow significantly in the coming months, as she became the first Chinese singles player, male or female, ever to win a tennis Grand Slam title, ensuring her place in the sport's history.[17] Following the French Open, Li rose to a career high ranking of world No. 4.

As the second seed at the Aegon International, Li fell in the second round to Daniela Hantuchová. By virtue of the withdrawal of Kim Clijsters, Li was the third seed at Wimbledon, her highest seeding at a Grand Slam. She beat Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round but lost in the second round to eventual semifinalist Sabine Lisicki of Germany even though she had two match points at 5–3 and served for the match twice at 5–4 and 6–5.[18] Li suffered a surprise knock-out at the 2011 US Open at the hands of 53rd ranked Romanian teen Simona Halep. Then at the 2011 China Open, Li suffered a first round defeat by Romanian player Monica Niculescu. However, as a result of Vera Zvonareva and Samantha Stosur's inability to go past the third round, she was able to qualify for the 2011 WTA Tour Championships for the first time in her career.

Li made her debut appearance at the WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. She was drawn in the White Group along with Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Samantha Stosur. She beat Sharapova in her opening match but lost her other two matches, failing to make the semifinals. She finished the year as the world No. 5 after a memorable yet very inconsistent season. Li Na lost two awards in final round for "Annual Breakthrough Award" to Blake Griffin and "Annual Award for best female tennis players" to Serena Williams conducted and honoured by ESPY Sports Award.[19] On 17 and 18 December, Li participated in the Li Na & Friends Tennis Exhibition 2011 in Wuhan, China.

2012[edit]

Li started her 2012 season in the Hopman Cup, where she won all three single rubbers against Marion Bartoli, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Jarmila Gajdošová. It was her first win over Anabel Medina Garrigues in four meetings. It was a return to her form after being plagued by losses and early round exits in almost all her tournaments during the second half of 2011 following her Roland Garros triumph. Li then played in the Sydney to defend her title. She defeated Ekaterina Makarova, Chanelle Scheepers and Lucie Šafářová to reach the semifinals. In the semifinal, she came back from one set down to eke out the win against world No. 2 Petra Kvitová, the favorite to win the tournament. In the final, Li failed to defend her title, losing the match to Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

Li began her Australian Open campaign by cruising through the early rounds of the tournament, dispatching Ksenia Pervak, Olivia Rogowska, and Anabel Medina Garrigues (after Garrigues retired due to an injured ankle), en route to meeting her 2011 Australian Open final conqueror Kim Clijsters in the fourth round. Kim Clijsters rolled her ankle at 3–3 and Li took the first set comfortably. Li held four match points at 6–2 in the second set tiebreak, but dropped six consecutive points to give Clijsters the second set due to unforced errors and poor shot selection. At 1–5 in the final set, Li began a resurgence by reeling off the next three games to close the gap to 4–5, but the Belgian managed to close out the match. Her unexpected loss left her in tears in her post-match press conference.

After the disappointing Australian Open, Li participated in the 2012 Fed Cup and won all three of her matches on home soil. She defeated Kei-Chen Changand and Nigina Abduraimova during the round robin stages to push China to the promotional play-offs against Kazakhstan. She next played Galina Voskoboeva and won in three sets. This win sealed the tie and secured China's spot in the World Group II play-offs.

Li Na in Miami

Li then participated in the Open GDF Suez in Paris, but retired against Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round of the tournament due to a back injury she sustained during her Fed Cup matches. She made back-to-back quarterfinal appearances at the 2012 BNP Paribas Open and 2012 Sony Ericsson Open. At the BNP Paribas Open, Li got a first round bye and faced a rematch with Galina Voskoboeva in the second round, which she won in three sets. Li recorded her first win over Zheng Jie, after losing the five earlier meetings. In the fourth round she comfortably won against Klára Zakopalová, who was on a roll, upsetting Vera Zvonareva and Daniela Hantuchová. In the quarterfinals she faced Angelique Kerber and lost in two sets. At the Sony Ericsson Open after receiving a first round bye, Li defeated Melinda Czink, Iveta Benešová, and Sabine Lisicki to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. Li's win over Lisicki avenged her loss to the big serving German in the previous year's second round of the Wimbledon Championships. Li lost to world No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, her first in their last four meetings, where the Chinese beat the Russian all in straight sets.

Li reached the final of the Italian Open, defeating Iveta Benešová, Chanelle Scheepers and Dominika Cibulková before receiving a walkover from Serena Williams who withdrew with an injury. In the final she lost to Maria Sharapova in three thriller sets despite being a set up and leading 4–0 in the second and failing to convert a championship point in the final set. Li was seeded 7th at the French Open, where she was the defending champion. She began her title defence by defeating Sorana Cîrstea, Stéphanie Foretz Gacon and Christina McHale in the first three rounds before suffering a fourth round upset bid by qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova. She fell out of the World’s top ten due to her French Open result. Li lost to Sorana Cîrstea in the second round of Wimbledon – her first loss against the Romanian.

At the 2012 London Olympics, Li, seeded 10th, crashed out in the first round to Slovakian Daniela Hantuchová. Her poor performance caused her to drop out of the World’s top ten for the second time in the year following the conclusion of the Games. After the Olympics, Li announced that she and Carlos Rodriguez, coach of former world No. 1 and seven-time major winner Justine Henin, have commenced a coaching relationship.

The next tournament Li played was the 2012 Rogers Cup, at which she reached the final. She received a first round bye before seeing off home crowd favourite Eugenie Bouchard in the second round. In the third round, she fended off world No. 9 Sara Errani and ended the hopes of Agnieszka Radwańska rising to no. 1 in the rankings by beating her in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Li rallied to come back from a 5–1 deficit in the third set to overcome Lucie Šafářová before losing to Petra Kvitová in the final. After the tournament she returned to the World’s top ten at no. 9.

At the 2012 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Li had a first round bye before eliminating Sorana Cîrstea in the second round, avenging her loss to the Romanian in the second round of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. In the third round Li proved to be too strong for Johanna Larsson and in the quarterfinals she convincingly defeated world No. 3 and top seed Agnieszka Radwańska in a match where Li only surrendered two games. She then edged Venus Williams in the semifinal (bringing their head to head to 3–0), before defeating fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the final; her 5th win against Kerber in six matches. This was her first title since the 2011 French Open and the sixth WTA title in her career. By winning this tournament, she moved up one place in the rankings to world No. 8.

At the US Open Li cruised through the first two rounds with easy wins over Heather Watson and Casey Dellacqua. However, in the third round she was upset in three sets by rising British teenager Laura Robson, who had defeated three-time champion Kim Clijsters in the previous round. This result meant that this was her first season since 2008 in which she had not reached the quarterfinal stage in any one of the Grand Slam tournaments.

Li then travelled to Tokyo to participate in the 2012 Toray Pan Pacific Open. She received a bye in the first round, and won her second round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to book a meeting with former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. She won the first set, but eventually lost the match. Her exit from the tournament meant that her chances of participating in the upcoming 2012 WTA Tour Championships depended on her performance at the China Open.

Li won the first round match against Francesca Schiavone. In the second round she defeated 14th-ranked Russian Nadia Petrova, who recently won her 12th career title at the 2012 Toray Pan Pacific Open, in straight sets, her first victory against Petrova after six previous losses. She played compatriot Peng Shuai in the third round for a place in the quarters and won in a topsy-turvy three set match lasting 2 hours and 28 minutes. In the quarterfinals, she faced defending champion Agnieszka Radwańska and played some high-quality tennis to defeat her for the third time this season. She lost her semifinal to Maria Sharapova; the Russian reeling off eight consecutive games to take the match. With this performance, she became the eighth and final player to qualify for the season-ending championships.

For the 2012 WTA Tour Championships, Li was placed in the red group along with Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. She played Serena Williams in her opening match and lost in two sets after failing to capatalise on her 4–1 first set lead. She defeated Angelique Kerber in her second match before losing to Azarenka in her third match; in the latter match, she had served for the first set at 5–4, but was broken and lost the set in a tie-break. This was the final match of her 2012 season, finishing the year ranked world No. 7.

On 29 December 2012, Li beat Victoria Azarenka in an annual exhibition event in Hua Hin, Thailand.

2013: Return to top form[edit]

Li Na with Coach Carlos Rodriguez at the 2013 US Open

Li commenced her season at the first edition of the Shenzhen Open. She cruised to the final with straight-sets defeats over Mandy Minella, Julia Cohen, Bojana Jovanovski and Peng Shuai, putting her in prime position to claim her seventh WTA title. Li saw off 5th seed Klára Zakopalová in three sets in the final to claim her first title of 2013 and seventh of her career.

Li next played at the Apia International, at which she made consecutive finals the two previous years, winning in 2011. She was pushed to the limit by Christina McHale but had little trouble with Ayumi Morita. She met young American Madison Keys in the quarterfinals who proved to be a tougher challenge, with Li prevailing in three tight sets to book a semifinal showdown with world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwańska. Li looked the winner in the early stages of the match, but somewhat faltered, producing a high number of unforced errors which handed Radwańska the first set. She saved four match points on Radwańska's serve in the ninth game of the second set and three on her own serve in the tenth game. However, eventually she succumbed to the pressure and a half-volley into the net sealed the win for Radwańska in an hour and 32 minutes, putting an end to Li Na's Sydney reign.

At the Australian Open Li Na easily stormed through to the quarterfinals, where she faced world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwańska, who had not dropped a set during a 13-match winning streak. Li became the first player to defeat her this season and advanced to the semifinals where she ousted world No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets, who had only dropped a record-low nine games in the tournament. This marked Li's second Australian Open final appearance in three years, finishing runner-up to Kim Clijsters in 2011. In the final, Li was hampered by injuries, falling over on two occasions. The first of which occurred at 1–3 in the second set, a fall that saw Li incur a 10-minute medical timeout. She fell over a second time, not only twisting her left ankle once more but also heavily knocking the rear of her head on the court, causing a momentary black-out. Another medical timeout was required. She eventually lost the match in three sets to Victoria Azarenka.

The left ankle injury she sustained in the Australian Open decider forced her to withdraw from subsequent tournaments including the Qatar Total Open, the Indian Wells Masters, plus an exhibition match at the BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong in which she was scheduled to play former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

After being sidelined for seven weeks due to injury, Li made a return to the competition at the Miami Masters as the fifth seed. After a first round bye, she won her second round against Kiki Bertens in two quick sets without dropping serve in her first match since the Australian Open final. Next up she faced Varvara Lepchenko and Garbiñe Muguruza and defeated both in straight sets to set up a quarterfinal match against world No. 1 Serena Williams. Despite leading 5–2 in the second set and holding a set point on Williams' serve, she did not manage to find a way to captalise and went on to lose the match in a tiebreak.

Li's next tournament was the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the first major clay-court event of the season. As the second seed, she received a bye in the first round. She swept past qualifier Mirjana Lučić-Baroni in the second round, setting up an encounter with Petra Kvitová in the quarterfinals. She disposed of Kvitová and then surprise semifinalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands both in straight sets to advance to the final for the first time, seeking her eighth career title. The final was a contest between her and Maria Sharapova, whose passage to the final included three three-set matches each lasting over three hours. She, however, handily defeated Li in just over 90 minutes, increasing her clay-court winning streak to 16 and avenging her Australian Open semifinal loss to Li earlier in the year.

Li was then stunned by lucky loser Madison Keys in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open the following week, her first early tournament exit of the season. Li returned to the Internazionali d'Italia as the defending finalist. After a first round bye, she defeated Zheng Jie in staight sets then squared off with former doubles partner Jelena Janković, who defeated Li in a marathon match in which Li's inconsistency proved to her be undoing, committing 62 unforced errors. As one of the favourites, Li's quest for a second Grand Slam title began when she played Anabel Medina Garrigues in the opening round of Roland Garros, winning in two sets. However, she fell victim to Bethanie Mattek-Sands, ranked 67th, in a rain-interrupted second round match – losing in three sets, bringing her disappointing clay court season to a close.

Li got her grass court season off to a winning start by beating Alizé Cornet in the first round of the 2013 Aegon International, at which she was seeded second. A quarterfinal berth against Elena Vesnina was secured after her second round opponent Marion Bartoli pulled out due to a viral illness. The Russian ended Li's run and went on to win the tournament.

Li Na in 2013 Wimbledon

Li was the sixth seed at Wimbledon. She defeated Michaëlla Krajicek in the first round and Simona Halep in a rollercoaster three set match. In the third round against the No. 32 seed Klara Zakopalova, Li lost the first set, but won the match in three sets after Zakopalova failed to serve out the match. In the fourth round she dispatched Roberta Vinci to secure a sport in the last eight for the third time. After the match, she revealed that the secret to her success was the slice practice that her husband Jiang Shan gave her prior to the match. In her quarterfinal clash with Agnieszka Radwanska, she was leading 5–4 in the first set and was a set point up when she hit an ace that was wrongly called out. Li didn't challenge the call, and lost the set in a tiebreak where she was also leading 5–3. She mounted a comeback to win the second set, coming from 4–2 down. A brief rain delay halted proceedings at the beginning of the third. When play resumed, it was Radwanska who raced to a 5–2 lead. Li saved eight match points, but eventually lost the 2 hour 47 minute match.[20]

Li Na practicing at 2013 Rogers Cup in Toronto

Li then played at the 2013 Rogers Cup, at which she made the final last year. After receiving a bye in the first round, she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in-form players Ana Ivanovic (in a final set tie-break) and Dominika Cibulková to reach the semifinals, where she lost to Sorana Cîrstea. In the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, she received a walkover from Agnieszka Radwanska who pulled out from the tournament due to personal reasons in the quarterfinals but eventually lost her semifinal match to Serena Williams in straight sets.[21]

Seeded fifth at the US Open, she defeated Olga Govortsova and Sofia Arvidsson in straight sets and then got revenge on Laura Robson in the third round, in the same place Robson defeated her last year. She then defeated former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in straight sets. Upon defeating Jankovic, she reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for only the second time in her career. There she beat Ekaterina Makarova to reach her first US Open semifinal (as well as it being the first time a Chinese woman made the US Open semifinals) before Serena Williams ended her run in straight sets, needing six match points to do so.

On 27 September, Li successfully qualified for the 2013 WTA Tour Championships, as the fifth qualifier. She won all three of her round robin matches against Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka, thus qualifying for the semifinals for the first time. After beating Petra Kvitova her ranking rose to a new career high of world No. 3, the highest-ever ranking for a female tennis player from an Asian country. Li won the first set of the final against Serena Williams, but ultimately lost the match in three sets.

2014: Australian Open champion and world No. 2[edit]

Main article: 2014 Li Na tennis season

Li started her 2014 season as the defending champion at the 2014 Shenzhen Open. She defeated wildcard and former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the first round, Nadiya Kichenok in the second round, Monica Niculescuin the Quarter-Finals and Annika Beckin the Semi-Finals to reach her first final of the year and thus also set up the second all-Chinese final in WTA history, where she defeated Peng Shuai in straight sets to win her eighth career singles title and her second Shenzhen Open. This marked the first time in Li's career where she had successfully defended a title of any kind.

At the Australian Open, Li competed as the fourth seed. She defeated current junior top 2 players Ana Konjuh and Belinda Bencic in the first two rounds. Having lost the first set against Lucie Šafářová, she saved a match point in the second before coming back to win in the third and ultimately winning the match. She then cruised past Ekaterina Makarova, Flavia Pennetta, and Eugenie Bouchard to reach her third Australian Open final, where she defeated first-time Grand Slam singles finalist and 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets to claim her first Australian Open title, thus becoming the first Asian Australian Open champion and fourth woman to win the title after being match point down.[22][23]

By virtue of the withdrawal of Victoria Azarenka, Li was assured of rising to a new career-high singles ranking of world No. 2 following the Qatar Total Open. Li extended her winning streak to thirteen matches by defeating Magdalena Rybáriková in her opener. She then suffered her loss of the season to qualifier Petra Cetkovská in the third round.

Li's next scheduled event was the BNP Paribas Open, where she was unable to compete the previous year due to injury. Seeded first at a major event for the first time, she received a bye in the first round before registering straight set victories over countrywoman Zheng Jie, Karolina Plíšková and Aleksandra Wozniak en route to a quarterfinal clash with Dominika Cibulkova, a rematch of the Australian Open final. Though Li committed 54 unforced errors, she prevailed in three sets and faced Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals. There, she was upset in straight sets by the 20th-seeded Italian and eventual tournament champion.[24]

In the Sony Open Tennis, Li received a first round bye and walkover in the second round due to withdrawal of Alisa Kleybanova. Li defeated Madison Keys, 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro and 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki en route and set up a quarter final with Dominika Cibulkova, who had just debut in world top 10 with her previous win. Li repeated the Australian Open defeat in 3 sets 7-5 2-6 6-3 and booked her first Premier Mandatory Final place. In the final featuring the world top 2 players, Li raced to a 5-2 lead in the first set, after wasting 1 set point, her opponent and world no.1 Serena Williams took the set 7-5. Li could merely take 1 game in the second set before surrendering the title 7-5 6-1.

Li Na withdrew the 2014 Stuttgart Open, due to a left knee injury, where she was a defending finalist last year.

Rivalries[edit]

Li vs. Sharapova[edit]

Li Na has a see-saw rivalry with Maria Sharapova, with the latter winning their first five victories dating back to 2005, including on Li's Grand Slam debut at the 2005 Australian Open.[25] Li won her first match against Sharapova in the 2009 Birmingham semi-finals; this started a series of four wins in a row against Sharapova. Li beat Sharapova again in Birmingham in 2010, this time in the final, she would then beat her again in the semi-finals of the 2011 French Open, on her way to winning the title. At the Year-end Championships later in the year, Li defeated Sharapova in the round robin stage. In 2012, Li and Sharapova met three times, with Sharapova winning all three of their matches. The most notable of them was the final of the clay-court tournament in Rome. Li won the first set and seemingly easy went 4–0 up in the second due to an effectively aggressive gameplan which saw her take 15 of 17 points. With victory nearing Li suddenly saw her accuracy shatter and 24 unforced errors let Sharapova back into the match to eventually take a three set victory over Li.[26] The two met again in the 2013 Australian Open semifinal round, where Li achieved her most notable victory over Sharapova, winning in straight sets and giving up just four games (Sharapova had lost just nine entering the match). A few months later at the 2013 Porsche Grand Prix Tennis in Stuttgart, Sharapova defended her title by defeating Li in straight sets. Sharapova leads Li in the head-to-head 9–5.[27]

Li vs. Radwańska[edit]

Li and Agnieszka Radwańska first played each other in 2009. Li leads the head-to-head 6–5.[28] After their first four matches in 2009 and 2010 the head-to-head was even at 2–2. This included a victory each at the Wimbledon Championships; Radwańska winning in 2009 and Li in 2010. In 2012 Li and Radwańska met 4 times, with Li taking 3 victories. Li lost their meeting in the Stuttgart quarter-final in three sets, but dominated in Montréal, Cincinnati and Beijing. Li prevented Radwańska from taking the world No. 1 ranking off the incumbent Victoria Azarenka in the first two victories, whilst she also ended her title defence in Beijing, securing the eighth and final place in the year-end championships in the process.

In 2013 both won the first tournament they entered. They were both undefeated when they met each other in the semi-finals of their second tournament of the year at Sydney. Radwańska beat Li and eventually won the tournament. This was Li's first defeat of 2013, while Radwańska remained unbeaten. At the 2013 Australian Open, Li became the first player to defeat Radwańska this season, with a victory in the quarter-finals. They met again at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals, with Radwańska eking out a close three set win.

Li vs. Clijsters[edit]

Li and Kim Clijsters formed a well-known rivalry, having met eight times between 2006 and 2012. Clijsters won their head-to-head 6–2, including 4–0 in the Grand Slams.[29] Li's first Grand Slam quarterfinal was at Wimbledon in 2006 against the second-seeded Clijsters, who won in straight sets. Li's second Grand Slam quarterfinal was at the 2009 US Open, again against Clijsters, who had just recently started a comeback to tennis after starting a family. Clijsters prevailed in striaght sets.

One of Li's two wins against Clijsters came in the final of the 2011 Sydney International. Clijsters had led 5–0 in the first set before inexplicably losing the set in a tiebreak. Li went on to win the second set to complete a remarkable victory and deny Clijsters her third Sydney title.[30] They would meet again only two weeks later, in the final of the 2011 Australian Open, a match which had historical proportions because Li would have become the first player from China to win a Grand Slam singles title or Clijsters would win her first non-US Open Grand Slam title. Both players came into the match having defeated the world's top two players in the semifinals: Li over Caroline Wozniacki and Clijsters over Vera Zvonareva. After Li took the first set, Clijsters would take the next two, to win her only Australian Open title.[31]

The pair met again at the 2012 Australian Open, albeit in the fourth round, with Clijsters winning in three sets despite rolling her ankle, after Li squandered four match points in the second-set tie-break.

Li vs. Azarenka[edit]

Li and Victoria Azarenka have met eleven times since 2008.[32] Azarenka leads the head-to-head 6–5 overall, and 2–1 in championship matches, but Li Na leads 2–1 in Grand Slam matches.

Their first meeting was in the final of the 2008 Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts tournament (which has since been renamed the Brisbane International), which Li Na won in three sets after Azarenka had won the first.[33] Azarenka's first victory over Li was in the third round of the 2010 Rogers Cup. They met three times in 2011, two of which were at in Grand Slams, with Li winning both times, before Azarenka won their third meeting at the 2011 WTA Tour Championships, en route to reaching the final.

They met a further three times in 2012, with Azarenka winning each time. They met in the final of the Sydney International, where Azarenka won in three sets after breaking the defending champion Li at 4–3 in the decider.[34] Azarenka was also victorious in their meetings at Madrid and the year-end championships.

Their most notable meeting to date was in the final of the 2013 Australian Open. Both players entered the championship match with one Grand Slam title each (Azarenka won the 2012 Australian Open, whilst Li won the 2011 French Open), and in very good form, with Azarenka only dropping one set throughout her run and Li not having dropped a set and also having defeated two top-4 players (Agnieszka Radwańska and Maria Sharapova) en route. After Li won the first set, Azarenka stepped up her game as her opponent started to suffer multiple injuries, and eventually won in three sets to successfully defend her Australian Open title and become the first world No. 1 to win a Grand Slam since Serena Williams won Wimbledon in 2010.

Li won their most recent meeting in straight sets at the 2013 WTA Tour Championships, losing just three games in the process.[35]

Playing style[edit]

Li is an aggressive baseliner whose game is founded upon her quick reflexes, athleticism and powerful groundstrokes that achieve precision, placement and depth. Her crosscourt forehand tends to be Li's favourite shot which she hits with great accuracy and pace, although her backhand is said to be the more consistent and reliable groundstroke, both of which she is known to scatter unpredictably to all areas of the court. Her backhand down-the-line is one of Li's primary weapons, either hitting an outright winner or setting up a weak reply from the opponent. Many tennis analysts and former players consider Li one of the cleanest and hardest hitting players on tour today, capable of overpowering and outgunning opponents from the baseline. Although she does not possess an overwhelmingly powerful serve, it can be very well placed, earning her occasional aces or unreturnables; however it can become a liability as she loses confidence in her serve at times resulting in many double faults. Li employs a solid defensive game combining great footwork, speed and lateral movement. Her quick transition from defence to offense is one of her biggest assets as she hits well on the run and has no problem scrambling around the court to retrieve balls. Having been an accomplished doubles player, she is comfortable at the net and will often move forward to take advantage of a short ball or finish off an extended rally. Li's main weakness is her inconsistency, prone to streaky and erratic play accompanied by a high unforced error count. Her game also lacks variety, as she usually hits her shots hard and flat with minimal topspin or slice. Her emotions on court have hurt her game in the past, especially during tight moments. Since hiring Carlos Rodriguez (former coach of former world No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam champion Justine Henin), Li has adopted more of an all-round game, including a forehand with additional topspin, frequent net approaches, and improved mental stability.

Career statistics[edit]

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 4 (2 titles, 2 runners-up)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Runner-up 2011 Australian Open Hard Belgium Kim Clijsters 6–3, 3–6, 3–6
Winner 2011 French Open Clay Italy Francesca Schiavone 6–4, 7–6(7–0)
Runner-up 2013 Australian Open (2) Hard Belarus Victoria Azarenka 6–4, 4–6, 3–6
Winner 2014 Australian Open Hard Slovakia Dominika Cibulková 7–6(7–3), 6–0

Olympic games[edit]

Singles: 1 Bronze Medal match[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
4th place 2008 Beijing Hard Russia Vera Zvonareva 0–6, 5–7

Grand Slam Singles performance timeline[edit]

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR LQ (Q#) A P Z# PO SF-B F S G NMS NH

Won tournament; or reached Final; Semifinal; Quarter-final; Round 4, 3, 2, 1; competed at a Round Robin stage; lost in Qualification Round; absent from tournament event; played in a Davis Cup Zonal Group (with its number indication) or Play-off; won a bronze, silver (F or S) or gold medal at the Olympics; a downgraded Masters Series/1000 tournament (Not a Masters Series); or a tournament that was Not Held in a given year.

To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated either at the conclusion of a tournament, or when the player's participation in the tournament has ended.

Tournament 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 SR W–L Win %
Australian Open A LQ A A A 3R 1R 4R 3R A SF F 4R F W 1 / 9 34–8 81%
French Open A A A A A A 3R 3R A 4R 3R W 4R 2R 1 / 7 20–6 77%
Wimbledon A LQ A A A A QF A 2R 3R QF 2R 2R QF 0 / 7 17–7 71%
US Open LQ A A A A 1R 4R A 4R QF 1R 1R 3R SF 0 / 8 17–8 68%
Win-Loss 0–0 0–0 0–0 0–0 0–0 2–2 9–4 5–2 6–3 9–3 11–4 14–3 9–4 16–4 7–0 2 / 31 88–29 75%

Grand Slam Doubles performance timeline[edit]

Tournament 2000 2001 2005 2006 2007 2008 SR W–L
Australian Open 1R 2R 2R 1R 0 / 4 2–4
French Open 2R 2R 0 / 2 2–2
Wimbledon 2R 0 / 1 1–1
US Open 2R 3R 1R 0 / 3 3–3
Win-Loss 1–1 0–1 2–1 3–4 2–2 0–1 0 / 10 8–10

Popularity and endorsements[edit]

As the most successful Asian tennis player ever, Li has become one of the most well-known and marketable athletes in the world.[36] In 2013, Li appears on the cover of Time magazine, which named her to its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World; Li being one of only four athletes to be named on the list. Former world No. 1 Chris Evert writes: "Tennis has exploded in China. The country now has some 15 million tennis players; 116 million watched Li win the French Open. That kind of exposure is crucial to our sport, and it never would have happened without Li. At tournaments, I've seen her charm the crowds. When she smiles, everyone melts. She's just such a breath of fresh air. Her friendly on-court demeanour as well as her hilariously-witty post-match interviews brings a smile to everyone's face."[37][38][39] In 2012, Forbes listed Li as No. 87 in the Forbes Celebrity 100 list.[40] Li, along with the fellow tennis player Maria Sharapova, are the only two female athletes who cracked the Top 100 earning list.[41] Li was also ranked No. 5 in the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list.[42] Li is affectionately called "Big Sister Na" (娜姐, pinyin: Nàjiě) among Chinese communities and is considered a "strong, unbending and unyielding" role model. She has not only become a household name across China but a global icon, with her Sina Weibo microblogging having over 22 million followers as of December 2013.[43][44] Her perceived rebelliousness, exemplified by the tattoo on her chest and her previous run-ins with government sports programs, also helped boost her popularity.[36]

Nike has been Li's clothing and footwear sponsor for many years, dating back to her early tennis career.[3] Li uses Babolat Pure Drive GT rackets.[45] In 2009, Li was signed by IMG. She rose to fame after her Roland Garros triumph, and since has signed seven endorsements in multiple-year terms.[46][47][48] Her agent, Max Eisenbud, also managed to negotiate a deal allowing Li to wear other sponsors' patches on her Nike tennis shirt, something not usually permitted by the sportswear giant.[49]

Kunlun Mountains promotion featuring Li Na, in a shop in Wenzhou, China.

Li's sponsors, past and present, include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "她最爱吃妈妈煮的面". 青年报. January 31, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ Branch, John (September 8, 2009). "China's Li Na Finds a Taste of Home in New York". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Jeremy Lin, Li Na and Liu Xiang show Nike has eye for talent
  4. ^ a b "李娜—09中国网球公开赛参赛选手简介". Yahoo China. October 2, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "李娜自曝当年退役缘由 称:余丽桥不懂得表扬队员". 武汉晚报. October 10, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "个性李娜单飞后屡获成功 映射举国体制之尴尬". 163.com. January 29, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Li --~~~~Na serves an ace by flying solo". Financial Times. January 28, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  8. ^ "分析:李娜单飞的意义". Financial Times Chinese. January 28, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  9. ^ Li Na tops Francesca Schiavone for title. ESPN. June 4, 2011. Accessed 2011-06-06.
  10. ^ Xinhua News: 1400万奖金 李娜只带走840万
  11. ^ AFP: China tennis star braced for battle of tattoos
  12. ^ Rise of Chinese tennis rebel Li Na
  13. ^ Women's Tennis Association (2008-01-03). "Safina's Golden Reign Comes To An End". Women's Tennis Association. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ "Li Na of China keeps feet on ground after historic French Open victory". The Guardian. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  16. ^ CHINA HAILS LI NA'S FRENCH OPEN WIN AS SOURCE OF PRIDE, TSN.ca, June 4, 2011
  17. ^ Li Na – From an athlete in the shadows to a new national hero, Thinking Chinese, June 5, 2011
  18. ^ "French Open champ Li loses to Lisicki at Wimbledon". The Seattle Times. 23 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
  19. ^ Li Na in Awards
  20. ^ A Challenge Not Taken, a Match Not Won (NY Times)
  21. ^ http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-18/top-stories/41422329_1_serena-williams-li-na-match-point
  22. ^ "Li Na wins Australian Open final against Dominika Cibulkova – as it happened". Guardian UK. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  23. ^ "Li Na beats Dominika Cibulkova to win Australian Open final". BBC Sport. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  24. ^ "Pennetta to Meet Radwanska for Title". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  25. ^ Sharapova breezes through to fourth round – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  26. ^ "Sharapova beats Li to retain Rome title". usatoday.com. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  27. ^ "Head to Head with M. Sharapova". wtatennis.com. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  28. ^ "Head to Head with A. Radwanska". wtatennis.com. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  29. ^ Li Na vs. Kim Clijsters head to head
  30. ^ Li upsets Clijsters in Sydney final – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  31. ^ Clijsters claims Open crown – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ Li storms to victory in GC Hardcourts final – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  34. ^ Azarenka victorious in Sydney decider – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  35. ^ Li Na defeats Victoria Azarenka to qualify for WTA Championships semi-finals, ABC Grandstand Sport (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 26 October 2013
  36. ^ a b Courting China: Li Na leaps up sport's rich list
  37. ^ Li Na on Time cover, named one of 100 most influential people
  38. ^ The 2013 TIME 100 Cover Shots
  39. ^ The 2013 TIME 100 List
  40. ^ The World's Most Powerful Celebrities
  41. ^ Mayweather Tops List Of The World's 100 Highest-Paid Athletes
  42. ^ Taiwan Singer Jay Chou Tops The 2012 Forbes China Celebrity List
  43. ^ Xinhua: Li Na hailed as China' s new idol
  44. ^ China Daily: People love Li Na again
  45. ^ a b Babolat Serial Player Wanted http://www.babolatserialplayers.com/en
  46. ^ Telegraph: Li Na poised to become world's top-earning female athlete
  47. ^ The Week: China's Li Na set to earn more than Maria Sharapova
  48. ^ Forbes: Win By China's Li Na To Boost Sponsors, May Spur Spending On Other Stars
  49. ^ Li Na Nears Top Earner Sharapova With $42 Million in Endorsement Contracts
  50. ^ CNBC: Li Na Signs Big Endorsement Deal With Mercedes Benz
  51. ^ China Open: LI Na signed with Kunlun Mountain yesterday
  52. ^ China Daily: China's tennis ace eyes next year's Olympics
  53. ^ "News". WTA Tennis English. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  54. ^ "Li Na – Häagen-Dazs – SEA". Sportseasia.com. 2011-11-07. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  55. ^ [3][dead link]
  56. ^ Rolex: Li Na
  57. ^ "Li proves trump card for sponsors". Afr.com. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  58. ^ Market Wire: SpiderTech Signs Li Na to Health and Wellness Program
  59. ^ Sports Business Digest: Sponsorship: French Open champ Li Na and SpiderTech
  60. ^ CROWN ANNOUNCES MAJOR SPONSORSHIP WITH LI NA
  61. ^ 李娜加盟"Visa之队" 伦敦奥运之旅获全程赞助 http://news.sports.cn/tennis/2011-12-21/2173097.html
  62. ^ 伊利集团 http://www.yili.com

External links[edit]