Chinese tennis star Li Na said the early passing of her father taught her a significant lesson about the value of hard work that has held her in good stead in her playing career.
Writing in the Age newspaper, she also said some young professionals are not reaching their potential because they are being spoiled by over-indulgent mentors.
The world No. 11 advanced to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday, with a straight sets win over 21-year-old Belarussian Victoria Azarenka.
A semi-finalist last year, when Li and countrywoman Zheng Jie created history by becoming the first Chinese players to reach that stage of a Grand Slam, she is playing some of the best tennis of her career at the age of 29, but Li questioned whether some of her younger rivals shared her hunger for success, which she puts down to some painful early experiences.
“My father died when I was 14,” she wrote. “Some young players nowadays do not appreciate that they are given whatever they want. They don’t even need to work hard and they still get whatever they want. When my father died, mum had to take care of everything, so I couldn’t tell her what I wanted because it was hard for her. So I think I have always believed in hard work.”
Li also credited her husband, Jiang Shan, with helping her become a more focused player by being a calming influence.
“He has taught me to calm down, to think about what I do,” she wrote. “He can understand what I do on the court.”
Li also revealed that her mother refuses to watch her games because she gets too nervous and that her mother even shunned seeing her at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“I asked mum to come and watch me play, but she said: ‘No, no, no, I don’t want to go,’” Li wrote. “She came to Beijing, but she didn’t come to the court to watch me. She’s not a sportsperson and she has always been nervous about watching me play.”