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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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Rebecca Peterson beats Heather Watson in Tianjin final to claim her second career title

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Rebecca Peterson clinched her second career title after beating Heather Watson 6-4 6-4 in the final of the Tianjin Open.

 

The Swedish player claimed her second title on Chinese soil after winning her maiden WTA maiden title in Nanchang. Earlier this week Peterson beat Venus Williams in the opening round.

Watson entered the Tianjin Open with just one WTA-level win in the opening round at Wimbledon. The British player beat Wang Qiang and Bronx champion Magda Linette en route to the final in Tianjin.

The final between Peterson and Watson was moved to an indoor facility after a five-hour delay due to rain.

Peterson rallied from 0-2 down in both sets en route to winning the final 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 37 minutes. The Swede converted on four of her ten break points.

Watson fended off two break points and earned a break in the next game to take a 2-0 lead. Peterson converted her fourth break-back point chance in the third game. Both players stayed neck and neck to draw level to 4-4.

Peterson earned another break in the ninth game when Watson sent her backhand drive volley wide. Peterson sealed the opening set 6-4 with a forehand down the line winner in the 10th game.

Watson held at love in the first game of the second set and broke serve in the second game. Peterson got the break back in the third game and took the lead with another break with a forehand down the line winner. The Swedish player held her next three service games and closed out the match with a forehand winner in the 10th game.

Thanks to this win Peterson will break into the top 50 reaching her career high of 44 in the WTA Ranking. Former world number 38 Watson will make her return in the top 100.

 

 

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Coco Gauff claims her maiden WTA title in Linz at the age of 15

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Fifteen year-old US rising star Coco Gauff claimed the maiden WTA title of her career beating former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 1-6 6-2 in the final of the Upper Austria Ladies in Linz (Austria).

 

Gauff crowned a remarkable week, in which she came back from losing the final qualifying round to win the first title of her carerer as a lucky loser. Earlier this week the US teenager claimed her first-ever top 10 win over Dutch star Kiki Bertens in her first WTA quarter final.

Gauff saved two break points in her opening service game, before breaking serve in the third game. She consolidated the break with an ace to open up a 3-0 lead. Ostapenko won her first game with a backhand down the line. Gauff did not face any more break points in the next games and earned a set point at 5-3 with an ace and hit a backhand slice to close out the opening set.

Ostapenko saved a break point in the first game of the second set with a forehand down the line before breaking serve for the first time at love. Gauff broke straight back in the next game, but Ostapenko hit a volley to get another break for 3-1. The Latvian player built up a 5-1 lead with a double break and sealed the second set with an ace on her first set point to force the match to the third set.

Gauff claimed an early break at the start of the third set to take a 2-0 lead after a backhand forced an error from Ostapenko on break point. Gauff went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead and earned two match points at 5-0. Ostapenko got one break back at love in the seventh game to claw her way back to 2-5. Gauff earned a third match point after Ostapenko netted a backhand and sealed the win, as Ostapenko fired a forehand long.

Gauff is projected to reach the top 75 of the WTA Ranking on Monday after starting her season ranked world number 600. She has become the youngest singles champion since Nicole Vaidisova lifted titles at Vancouver and Tashkent at the age of 15 in 2004.

Gauff is the second player in the last two seasons to win a maiden WTA singles season as a lucky loser equalling teenager Olga Danilovic, who won the Moscow Open last year.

 

 

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Coco Gauff reaches her maiden WTA final at the age of 15 in Linz

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US 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff cruised past German former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 after 91 minutes to reach her maiden WTA singles final at the Upper Austria Ladies Open in Linz.   

 

Gauff lost in the final round of the qualifying tournament but she claimed her spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. After entering the main draw as a lucky loser Gauff scored three wins over Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic  consolidating her spot in the top 100.

Gauff saved nine of the ten break points she faced and won 71 % of her second serve points.

Petkovic earned the first break of the match in Gauff’s opening game, but Gauff broke straight back in the second game with a passing shot down the line in the next game. After holding serve Gauff earned two break points. The US teenager broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead after a backhand error from Perkovic. Gauff earned three set points in the 10th game and converted her first chance after a netted return from Petkovic.

Gauff faced three break points at 2-1, but she held on her serve to draw level to 2-2. The US player converted her sixth break point chance to take a 3-2 lead after a double fault from Petkovic.

Gauff saved two break points with a volley and a drop-shot, when she served for the match at 5-4, and sealed the win on her second match point.

Gauff set up a final against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who came back from one set down to beat last year’s Linz finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Ostapenko fended off one match points at 6-5 in the second set and two more match points at 5-4 in the third set of the 2-hour and 21-minute match.

Alexandrova broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to take the opening set 6-1. The Russian player fired an ace on her second set point to seal the first set after 30 minutes.

Alexandrova went up an early break to build up a 3-1 lead. Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Alexandrova fended off three break points to draw level to 4-4. Alexandrova broke serve at love to take a 5-4 lead earning the chance to serve for the match. Alexandrova hit an ace to earn her first match point, but she did not convert her chance, as she sent her backhand long. Ostapenko broke serve to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Ostapenko earned her first set point at 5-5 in the tie-break, as Alexandrova missed a forehand wide. Ostapenko sealed the second set to force the match to the third set, as Ostapenko fired a service return wide.

Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the decisive set. Alexandrova fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 10th game to earn two match points, but she made unforced errors to miss both her chances. Ostapenko hit a forehand winner to draw level to 5-5. Alexandrova saved a match point at 6-5 with a return winner, but Ostapenko sealed the win on her second match point.

 

 

 

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