Li has no regrets over retirement

Published September 22, 2014
BEIJING: Chinese tennis star Li Na smiles as she answers questions during a press conference on Sunday.—AFP
BEIJING: Chinese tennis star Li Na smiles as she answers questions during a press conference on Sunday.—AFP

BEIJING: A teary-eyed Li Na said on Sunday she has no regrets about her retirement and the Chinese trailblazer was confident her country will produce more Grand Slam winners in future.

Two days after announcing the end of her momentous tennis career in an open letter to friends and fans, the 32-year-old Li — Asia’s only Grand Slam singles champion, entered her farewell news conference with the appearance of somebody who had been crying.

It didn’t take long for the two-time Grand Slam champion to shed tears, again, as she explained her decision to retire in the wake of a fourth knee operation.

“I’m very happy with my whole career and feel very proud. Now is the perfect time to walk away. I don’t have any regrets,” Li told reporters.

“After I made the decision I asked myself several times, ‘will I regret it in the future?’ But another voice told me, ‘no’, and I tried my best on court, so I won’t regret it.”

Li, known affectionately as ‘Big Sister Na’ and ‘Golden Flower’ in China, skipped this year’s US Open, triggering speculation her dazzling career was drawing to a close.

For many youngsters in China, she is a role model, with her steely determination, broad smile and English language skills emblematic of a confident and rising country.

Li said tennis in China has undergone vast change since she started and predicted more grand slam champions from her country.

“I’ve always watched the development of Chinese tennis closely. The young girls now have chances to come into contact with the world’s top players face to face, and have a bright future,” she said.

WUHAN (China): Germany’s Andrea Petkovic hits a return to Donna Vekic of Croatia during their first-round match at the Wuhan Open on Sunday.—Reuters
WUHAN (China): Germany’s Andrea Petkovic hits a return to Donna Vekic of Croatia during their first-round match at the Wuhan Open on Sunday.—Reuters

“In terms of successors, there’s no comparison, everyone has their own features. I believe they’ll work hard for their dreams. Keep an eye out — they’ll be coming. Maybe even better than me.”

Li’s news conference coincided with the first day of the Wuhan Open, a new premier-level tournament established on the back of her success.

The $2.4 million event is being held in Li’s home city in central China’s Hubei province but seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams crashed out in the first round on Sunday in a nail-biting 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) defeat to French player Caroline Garcia.

Garcia will now face Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova from the Czech Republic defeated Daniela Hantuc­hova of Slovakia 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2) while Elina Svitolina beat Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3.

Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova also moved into the second round with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win against Kurumi Nara from Japan. Andrea Petkovic, Zarina Diyas, Kirsten Flipkens, Karin Knapp and Alison Riske also advanced.

Lucky loser Annika Beck replaced two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the main draw after the Belarussian former world number one withdrew from the event and said she will miss the rest of the season as she battles a foot injury.

“Unfortunately I will not be competing in any tournaments for the remainder of the season,” the 25-year-old Belarusian said in a message on her Facebook page. “It has been a very tough year for me.

“I have been trying my best to improve day in and day out by pushing and pushing... but that does not appear to be the best approach for me right now. I will use this time to work on making a full recovery and take care of my body to compete at my best next season.”

Published in Dawn, September 22nd , 2014

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