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Li Na retires from professional tennis

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TENNIS – Li Na, twice Grand Slam champion, has announced her retirement due to recurring knee injuries in a long statement posted on Facebook. This announcement follows speculations that she would retire ahead of the WTA tournament in her home city Wuhan. Diego Sampaolo

 

2694979-li_na_fotografata_nella_locker_room_insieme_al_trofeo_vinto_questanno_agli_australian_openThe world of tennis will sadly miss a great tennis player and a nice person who became the first Chinese player in history to win a Grand Slam tournament at the Roland Garros in 2011. She has become a true Ambassador of our marvellous sport with her tennis ability and her nice personality and the smile on her face.

After her Australian Open triumph earlier this year Li Na gave the best trophy speech in which she took the opportunity to thank all those persons who contributed to her success (her coach, her husband, her physiotherapist) and congratulated with her rival Dominika Cibulkova

Li Na in Rome by Monique Filippella

Li Na in Rome by Monique Filippella

Li Na started the 2014 season with her second career Grand Slam win over Dominika Cibulkova at the Australian Open last January but she has not played since her third round defeat at Wimbledon. She underwent surgery on her left knee last July and was forced to miss the US Open.

“Most people in the tennis world know that my career has been marked by my troubled right knee. After four knee operations and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding. After a few weeks of post surgery recovery, tried to go through all the necessary steps to get back to the court. While I have come back from surgery in the past, this time it felt different. One of my goals was to recover as fast as I could in order to be ready for the first tournament in my hometown. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100 percent, my body kept telling that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level once again. The sport is too competitive, too good, to not be 100 percent ”, said Li Na.

In her long letter she posted on Facebook Li wrote to all her fans who have always supported her during her career helping her reach her goals.

2694979-li_na_fotografata_nella_locker_room_insieme_al_trofeo_vinto_questanno_agli_australian_open“As a tennis player representing China on the global stage, I’ve trekked around the world playing hundreds of matches on the WTA tour, for China’s Fed Cup team, at the National Games and at several Olympic Games. You’ve always been there for me, supporting me, cheering me on, and encouraging me to reach my potential.”

Li Na has become the first Chinese player to win a WTA title in Guangzhou in 2004, the first player from her country to reach a quarter final in 2006, the first to break the top-20, the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal at the 2010 Australian Open (where she was beaten by Serena Williams in two tie-breaks after knocking out Daniela Hantuchova, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams) the first to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in 2011 (beating Caroline Wozniacki in three hard-fought sets) and the first to win a Major title at the Roland Garros in 2011. Through these milestones she has significantly contributed to the spread and the popularity of tennis in China.

“For close to fifteen years, we have been part of each other’s lives. Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honour. Having the unique opportunity to effectively bring more attention to the sport of tennis in China and all over Asia is something I will cherish forever. But in sport, just like in life, all great things must come to an end”, wrote Li Na in her letter to her fans.

“I’ve succeeded on the global stage in a sport that a few years ago was in its infancy in China. What I’ve accomplished for myself is beyond my wildest dreams. What I accomplished for my country is one of my most proud achievements.”

2620401-australian_open_2014_-_na_li“In 2008, there were two professional women’s tennis tournaments in China. Today, there are 10, one of them in Wuhan, my hometown. That to me is extraordinary! Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams – with thirty Grand Slam singles titles among them – are coming to my hometown to play tennis for the fans of China! Just as I didn’t think I could ever be a Grand Slam champion, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that some of the best female athletes in the world could play tennis in Wuhan, in my backyard”.

The 2014 was marked by her second Grand Slam triumph at the Australian Open but by her persistent knee injury problems which have plagued the second half of her season.

2014 has become one of the most significant years in my career and my life. This year was full of amazing highlights, which included winning my second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open and sharing the extraordinary experience with my country, my team, my husband and my fans. It was also a year filled with difficult moments, such as having to deal with the inevitable – making the decision to end my professional tennis career.

“The amazing moment in Australia was filled with joy, happiness and extraordinary sense of accomplishment. The task of finally making a decision to hang up my racquet felt a lot more difficult than winning seven matches in a row in the Australian heat. It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be. Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family.

roland-garros-li-naWinning a Grand Slam title this year and achieving a ranking of World No.2 is the way I would like to leave competitive tennis. As hard as it’s been to come to this decision, I am at peace with it. I have no regrets. I was not supposed to be here in the first place, remember? Not many people believed in my talent and my abilities, yet I found a way to persevere, to prove them (and sometimes myself!) wrong.”

As Ambassador of tennis in China, Li Na is planning to contribute to the further growth of tennis in her country and help the new generation of tennis players in her country.

“My contributions to the growth of the sport in China are very special to me. But I don’t want to stop here. Together with IMG, my management company, we are putting together various plans on how we will continue to grow the sport of tennis in China. These plans include opening the Li Na Tennis Academy, which will provide scholarships for the future generation of Chinese tennis stars. I will also stay involved in the Right to Play, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children overcome challenges through sport. My philanthropic work will expand in scope as I continue to dedicate myself to helping those in need. What was once just a dream in China today is a reality”

“On a personal side, I look forward to starting a new chapter of my life, hopefully having a family and reconnecting with those I did not have the luxury of spending a lot of time with while playing. I can’t wait to revisit all the amazing places I played tennis in and see the world through a new set of eyes. I look forward to slowing down and living my life at a new, slower, relaxed pace”

Li Na in Rome by Monique Filippella

Li Na in Rome by Monique Filippella

In her long letter Li Na looked back at her long and hard journey from neighbourhood kid and promising tennis player to one of the one of the most popular stars on the circuit and offered encouragement to the future generation who want to pursue a tennis career inspired by Li Na’s example. She showed throughout her career that it is possible to fulfil the dream through hard-work and self-belief.

“When I started playing tennis, I was just a neighbourhood kid with an after-school hobby, not realizing what magical journey lay ahead of me. If I only knew what a vehicle the sport of tennis, along with my success, would become for my beloved China. While my journey hasn’t been easy, it has been rewarding. I’ve seen change happening in front of my eyes, young girls picking up tennis racquets, setting goals, following their hearts and believing in themselves. I hope that I’ve had the opportunity to inspire young women all over China to believe in themselves, to set their goals high and pursue them with vengeance and self-belief.

1736260-australian_open_na_liWhether you want to be a tennis player, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a business leader, I urge you to believe in yourself and follow your dream. If I could do it, you can too! Be the bird that sticks out. With hard work, your dreams will come true.”

WTA Chief Executive Stacey Allaster paid tribute to Li Na’s fantastic career in a statement.

“Li Na has been a fun, powerful and wonderful player on the WTA Tour and along with her fans. I am sad to hear that she has retired. I addition to her fantastic tennis abilities and her warm and humorous personality, she is a pioneer who opened the doors to tennis for hundreds of millions of people throughout China and Asia. It’s hard to be a household name in a nation with 1.4 billion people, but that’s what Li Na is”, said Stacey Allaster

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Elena Rybakina scores her 20th match of the season in Doha

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Elena Rybakina came back one set down to beat Sorana Cristea 3-6 6-3 6-1 to score her 20th match win of the season at the Qatar Total Open just two days after losing to Simona Halep in Dubai.

 

Rybakina has improved her seasonal record to 20 wins to 4 defeats this season. The Kazakh player won the Hobart International and reached three finals in Shenzhen, St. Petersburg and Dubai.

Rybakina went down a break in the opening game, but she broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Cristea broke twice in the fifth and ninth games to win the opening set 6-3. Rybakina broke serve in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Cristea broke back in the sixth game at deuce to draw level to 3-3. Cristea broke straight back at deuce to draw level to 3-3. Rybakina won the final three games with two consecutive games to win the second set 6-3. Rybakina won the first nine points of the third set including a break in the second game and got the break with a backhand return in the sixth game before serving out the win to secure her spot in the second round.

“I still have energy. I am just fighting in every match. Hopefully I can can keep making finals and finally win another. It’s my first time here, and it’s a really nice place. Hopefully I will have time to walk around, but I am enjoying Doha so far”, said Rybakina.

US teenager Amanda Anisimova cruised past last year’s semifinalist Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3 to reach the third round at the Qatar Total Open in Doha.

 

Anisimova hit 27 winners to 31 unforced errors and fended off all three break points she faced.

 

Anisimova scored her top 10 win since last  year’s Roland Garros, where she beat Simona Halep en route to her first Grand Slam semifinal.

 

Anisimova saved two break points in the third game of the first set. The US player earned the only break of the first set and held on her serve to seal the opening set on her second set point.

 

Anisimova converted her fourth break point at deuce to take a 3-2 lead. Svitolina earned two game points as she served to stay in the match, but Anisimova won three consecutive points to clinch the second set with her second break.

 

Anisimova will face either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Polish teenager Iga Swiatek.

 

“I think the most important thing was just staying focused and clearing my head, just not putting too much pressure on myself and just trying to enjoy. I love playing here. I love this stadium and the crowd is great. I am glad I get to see everyone again in the next round”,said Ansimova.

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Epic Dubai Triumph Fuels Belief And Motivation For Simona Halep

The world No.2 reacts to the latest milestone achieved in her career.

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On Saturday Simona Halep survived a marathon encounter at the Dubai Tennis Championships to become only the sixth active player to win 20 on more WTA titles on the tour.

 

The two-time grand slam champion, who was the top seed in the tournament, required almost two-and-a-half hours to see off the in-form Elena Rybakina 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). A player who has reached the final in four out of her five tournaments played so far in 2020. The clash was far from easy for the Romanian, who trailed 1-3 in the decider and failed to serve the match out when leading 6-5 before eventually prevailing in the tiebreak. Earning her first WTA trophy since lifting the Wimbledon trophy last July.

“It feels great that I could win it,” Halep said. “Actually, it was amazing. She fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I wanted it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.”

Besides Rybakina, the 28-year-old also scored wins over Jennifer Brady, Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur in the tournament. Out of those matches, Halep’s only straight sets win was over Brady in the semi-finals.

It is the second time Halep has won the Dubai crown after 2015. She believes her latest triumph reiterates why she still belongs at the top of the women’s game. Prior to this week, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and quarter-finals in Adelaide.

“I’ve done a lot of results, many results these six, seven years,” said Halep. “I’m staying here in the top 5, top 10, which is not easy. I’m proud of my job. Also, this tournament gives me confidence that I’m still there.”

Whilst she has only won two titles over the past 16 months, it is the consistency of the former world No.1 that has enabled her to be in the world’s top 10 for so long. To date she has spent 317 weeks consecutive weeks in the top 10 since January 2014. The 10th longest streak in the history of the WTA Tour.

“I always had in my mind that I had to be consistent. I didn’t like the way you win a tournament and then don’t do anything for a few months. I like to build my power and consistency every week.” She explained.
“Since I met Darren (Cahill) I was told that we had to look at the big picture and not just this week.’
“This makes me more proud than winning titles because if you’re able to be there means that you have everything power, strong mental, physical also, very strong.” She added.

There will be no Middle East double for Halep this year after she withdrew from the upcoming Doha Open. A Premier 5 event that will feature six top 10 players in the draw this year. Halep was runner-up in the tournament last year to Elise Mertens.

“It’s a decision I took before the match … I started this tournament a little bit injured with my foot.” Halep stated.

The only active players to have won more WTA titles than Halep are Serena and Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

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Simona Halep eases through her first final of the season in Dubai

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Simona Halep cruised past US qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-2 6-0 after just 62 minutes to reach her first final of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

 

Halep saved the only two break points she faced and hit 16 winners to 8 unforced errors. Halep earned an early break in the opening game before saving two break points to hold serve for 2-0. The 2019 Wimbledon player went up a double break and held serve to race out to a 5-1 lead. Brady hit a backhand winner to win her service game for 5-2. Halep wrapped up the first set on her first set point in the next game.

Halep went up an early break in the first game of the second set. She hit a forehand winner on her third break point to race out to a 3-0 lead. Halep earned her third consecutive break in the fifth game for 5-0. Halep earned a match point with a backhand winner and sealed the win after a backhand error from Brady. Halep set up a final against Elena Rybakina, who beat Petra Martic 7-6 7-6.

“It felt much better than previous matches. I played really well. Everything went in my side. I felt the ball great. I feel like I played the best match since I came here. It’s amazing what Rybakina has done already this year”, said Halep.

 

 

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