China will likely produce another Grand Slam women’s champion in the next decade, said Li Na, the only player from her nation to taste victory in any of tennis’ four biggest tournaments.
As Li prepares to reflect on her career at her induction into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, today, she has an eye on the future of the sport in her home nation.
She said the move of the WTA Finals to Shenzhen for the next decade would inspire Chinese players.
Having the event in China is “not only good for the fans, it’s also good for the athletes, especially the young athletes,” the two-time Grand Slam champion said in an interview on Thursday. “Face-to-face they can see the top players. It’s not only on the court, but also off the court, the professional tennis life [that is important].”
Until Japan’s Naomi Osaka won last year’s US Open, Li was the only Grand Slam winner from Asia, male or female, and is to be the first inducted into the Hall of Fame.
China has four women ranked in the world’s top 100, but no men in the top 200.
Unsurprisingly, Li said it was more likely a woman would win the nation’s next Grand Slam.
“I think the women’s side is much easier, because after I won the Grand Slam, young girls think they can do the same,” she said.
Li, 37, retired in 2014 after battling knee injuries for several years.
She is seven months younger than Roger Federer and was glued to the TV in the wee hours of the night in Beijing watching Sunday’s five-set Wimbledon final.
Li could not believe that Federer blew two match points on serve in his defeat to Novak Djokovic.
“I thought: ‘OK, it’s over,’” she said. “After watching the match I couldn’t go to sleep. It was like three in the morning. It was so exciting.”
Li had only made it to the quarter-finals on the grass of Wimbledon, her Grand Slam titles coming on clay at the 2011 French Open and hard court at the 2014 Australian Open.
She also lost two Australian Open finals, the first in 2011, a match she surprisingly ranks as the best memory of her career.
“I was really close to taking the trophy,” Li said. “Even though I didn’t win the match, it still gave me a lot of confidence.”
However, Li said her best career performance came in Stuttgart, Germany, where she beat Serena Williams 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 2008.
“Only once I beat Serena,” she said.
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