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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

ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: A Loaded Schedule Features All Third Round Matches

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Emma Raducanu on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

Thursday’s schedule in Cincinnati is overflowing with appealing contests.  ATP third round singles action is especially stacked, featuring 11 of the world’s top 20, including world No.1 Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz.  WTA action features top names such as world No.1 Iga Swiatek and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

It’s been a tough season for Raducanu, but she seems to be peaking just in time for her US Open title defense.  The 19-year-old followed up her comfortable victory over Serena Williams by dominating Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2.  She is currently in a trial coaching relationship with Dmitry Tursunov, who in recent years guided the careers of two other WTA players to new heights (Sabalenka, Kontaveit).  That partnership appears to be paying immediate dividends for Emma, much like Tursunov’s coaching did for Aryna and Anett.  Pegula has become the American No.1, and since last August, has reached the semifinals at three WTA 1000 events in North America, including just last week in Toronto.  But in their first career meeting, Raducanu’s blistering form this week makes her the favorite.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (7) vs. Jannik Sinner (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Grand Stand

This is a rematch from three months ago at the Madrid Masters 1000 event, where Auger-Aliassime crushed Sinner 6-1, 6-2.  That was an especially surprising result on clay, which is not Felix’s best surface.  The 22-year-old Canadian is now 35-19 on the year, and defeated Alex de Minaur in straight sets on Wednesday.  Sinner has a slightly better record of 38-10, and on Tuesday, outlasted Thanasi Kokkinakis in an over three-hour match decided by a third-set tiebreak.  Over the last few months, Sinner has been the more in-form player.  Jannik has won nine of his last 11 matches, while Felix has only managed five of his last 10.  With not much separating their abilities, confidence may be key, and that’s to Sinner’s advantage.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Andrey Rublev (6) – Fritz easily dismissed of an obviously-hampered Nick Kyrgios on Wednesday.  Rublev came back from a set down to take out Fabio Fognini.  Taylor is 3-2 against Andrey, which includes a straight set victory earlier this year at Indian Wells.

Petra Kvitova vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur saved three match points on Wednesday against Ohio native Katy McNally.  A round earlier, Kvitova saved match point against last year’s runner-up, Jil Teichmann.  Petra leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Ons earned her first win in their friendly rivalry this season.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Madison Keys – On Wednesday, Swiatek outlasted the other finalist from the 2017 US Open, Sloane Stephens.  On the same day, Keys ousted another French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. 

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov – This week, Shapovalov has earned his first back-to-back wins since May.  He has split four previous meetings with Medvedev, though Daniil has claimed their most recent two. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (13) – Schwartzman already survived two three-setters this week.  He’s 2-2 overall against Tsitsipas, though Diego has taken both of their matches on hard courts. 

Marin Cilic (14) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – Cilic won this event in 2016.  He’s 1-1 against Alcaraz, who is now 43-8 in 2022.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Brits Andy Murray and Cam Norrie Meet in the Second Round

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A look at Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (twitter.com/cincytennis)

On Monday, Andy Murray overcame another three-time Major singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a three-hour thriller.  In the second round, he meets the new British No.1 Cam Norrie, who reached his first Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.

 

WTA action is headlined by three matches between Slam singles champs, which includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek.  Also on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Andy Murray vs. Cameron Norrie – 11:00am on Center Court

Murray will be happy he had a day of rest after his emotionally and physically taxing match against Wawrinka.  He has compiled a solid record of 23-14 this season, with 2022 being his most active year since 2017, when his hip issues began.  But Norrie has taken his place as the top British male, and has really come into his own over the past 18 months.  Cam is now 38-18 this season, and has reached 10 finals since the start of last year.  Their only prior meeting occurred three years ago in Beijing, with Murray prevailing in a long, tight three-setter that lasted nearly three hours.  But three years later, Norrie is a much-improved competitor.  While playing your fellow countryman is often tricky, especially when they’ve been knighted, Cam should be favored to even their head-to-head.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Sloane Stephens (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Grand Stand

Swiatek is vying for her 50th win of the season on Wednesday, with 37 of those victories coming consecutively between February and July.  But since those 37 wins in a row, Iga is only 3-3, and suffered a frustrating loss last week in Toronto to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-5 in the third after three hours of play.  Stephens continues to be a streaky player, as the 2017 US Open champion has gone on multiple winning and losing streaks of four matches or more throughout the year.  On Monday night, she crushed Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0.  Sloane often plays her best tennis in American hard courts, and advanced to the third round or better of this tournament in seven straight appearances between 2012 and 2019.  These two Major champs have never played before.  Stephens could be primed for another win streak, and it would be understandable if Swiatek experienced a dip in her level after all the tennis she’s played this year.  Yet after dominating the tour for most of the year, Iga should still be favored.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – It’s a two-time Australian Open champ against the reigning US Open champ.  Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi in three sets on Tuesday, while Raducanu easily prevailed over Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina vs. Garbine Muguruza (8) – It’s another two-time Major champ against the reigning Wimbledon champ.  Rybakina is 2-2 since her surprising run at The All-England Club, while Muguruza is a subpar 9-13 on the year.  They split two meetings last year, with Elena victorious in the more notable encounter, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Fritz started the summer by winning the title in Eastbourne, while Kyrgios was the champion in Washington.  This will be their first career meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Borna Coric (PR) – Despite his injury issues, Nadal is a staggering 35-3 in 2022, and 20-1 on hard courts.  Coric missed a full year of action due to shoulder surgery, and is just 12-12 at all levels since returning.  Borna has won two of their four previous meetings, including six years ago at this event.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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