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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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WTA Bronx: Camila Giorgi Set For Title Showdown With Magda Linette

Camila Giorgi has twice survived a third set tiebreak this week, and saved four match points just yesterday, but can she claim the title?

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In Friday’s semifinals, Giorgi faced the top seed and world No.18 Qiang Wang.  This match would see a ton of service breaks, with each set consisting of five or more.  They would split the first two sets by identical scores of 6-4. In the third, the 27-year-old from China served for the match at 5-4, and would hold a match point, but Giorgi would save it and break for 5-5.  Camila’s firepower allows her to dictate play more often than not, and she’s continually lifted her game at the right moments this week.

 

Giorgi would then garner a match point of her own on Wang’s serve at 6-5, but also failed to convert.  In the deciding tiebreak, Qiang gained the early mini-break on the first point with a backhand winner down the line.  But Camila would punish an extremely soft second serve and get the breaker right back on serve. Wang then took advantage of a Giorgi forehand clipping the net, giving her extra time to rip a forehand and regain the mini-break.  They switched sides with Wang leading 4-2.

A few Giorgi errors gave Wang three more match points 6-3, with two of them on Qiang’s serve.  But Wang’s forehand misfired on both of the match points on her serve, and then Giorgi would put away a backhand volley to level things at 6-6.  Camila would again strike some deep and powerful groundies when she needed them, granting herself a match point at 7-6 on Wang’s serve. And Wang would sail a backhand beyond the baseline, sending the 27-year-old Italian into tomorrow’s final in dramatic fashion.

It’s the second final in four weeks for Giorgi, who was stunned in the Washington final by a first-time WTA champion, Jessica Pegula.  Camila saw her ranking fall outside the top 50 last month when her Wimbledon quarterfinalist points from 2018 dropped off her 52-week tally, but she’ll return to the top 50 with today’s win.  In her career, Giorgi is 2-5 in WTA tournament finals, with her most recent title coming last October at the Linz Open.

On Saturday in the first Bronx Open singles final, she’ll face another 27-year-old in Magda Linette of Poland.  This is only Linette’s second WTA-level final in her career, with the last coming four years ago in Tokyo. She lost in that final to Yanina Wickmayer, so a win today would give Magda her first career singles title.  Linette had to qualify to get into this draw, meaning this will be her seventh match in nine days. On Friday, she ousted Katerina Siniakova in straight sets, a day after surviving a third set tiebreak of her own in the quarterfinals against Karolina Muchova.

As much tennis as Linette has played in the Bronx, she may be the fresher of the two finalists.  Giorgi’s semifinal was played later in the day on Friday, and lasted nearly three hours. In their only previous meeting, Giorgi prevailed in three sets, on a hard court in Linette’s home country four years ago.

The first Bronx Open doubles champions were crowned on Friday, with Darija Jurak and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez defeating Margarita Gasparyan and Monica Niculescu in a deciding 10-point tiebreak 10-7.  This is the first title for this team, which was formed just a few weeks ago in Canada.

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Chris Evert On Why Coco Gauff Winning The US Open May Not Be A Good Thing

The former world No.1 speaks out about the teenage tennis prodigy.

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Cori Gauff - Wimbledon 2019 (photo via Twitter, @Wimbledon)

At next week’s US Open, one of the talking points of the women’s draw will be rising star Coco Gauff who will be making her main draw debut at Flushing Meadows.

 

The 15-year-old tennis prodigy grabbed the attention of many during the Wimbledon Championships. It was at the event where she became the youngest player in the Open Era to successfully qualify. Then she stunned former world No.1 Venus Williams, Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog en route to the fourth round. Where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Gauff’s rapid rise in the sport has caught the attention of both her rivals and sponsors. She already has deals with Barilla and New Balance. Amounting to an estimated $1 million, according to Forbes Magazine. Those brands will be hoping for the teenager to make another deep run at the final grand slam of the season. However, one former champion has warned against any potential success.

18-time grand slam champion Chris Evert is concerned that too much is happening to Gauff at a young age. Going as far as saying that success at the major event could be counterproductive. Gauff is currently ranked 141st in the world and is the youngest player in the top 500.

“I don’t know if it’d be necessarily great for her to win the Open.” Evert said during an interview with The New York Post.
“If she continues to play the way she is, have some big wins, still develop her game and be a normal 15-year-old with some semblance of privacy, then that’d be the most successful picture of her.’
“There’s no doubt there is Grand Slam potential in her, after watching her at Wimbledon. But I am very cautious because she is so young and so many things can happen between 15 and 20 (years old), mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Evert was 19 when she won her first major title at the 1974 French Open. In total she contested 34 grand slam finals over a 15-year period.

Earlier this week Gauff made an appearance at the Winston-Salem Open. A men’s tournament that is categorised as an ATP 250 event. She took to the court to play an exhibition match against world No.2 Ash Barty. Gauff edged out the reigning French Open champion 6-4, 2-6, [10-8].

“It was super fun. It’s different to kinda play in an atmosphere like that and not be in a tournament. It was cool to play with Ash and hopefully we can do it again sometime,” Gauff told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m kind of sad to leave [Winston-Salem] because New York is busy but it was good to get the calm before the storm.”

Gauff will take on Russian world No.76 Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the US Open. There is a chance that she could play defending champion Naomi Osaka in the tournament if they both reach the third round.

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Bronx Open Recap: Siniakova Saves Match Points to Oust the Last American Standing

All four quarterfinals were decided on a busy day in the Bronx.

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The first quarterfinal saw Katerina Siniakova, the No.4 doubles player in the world, face American wild Bernarda Pera. Siniakova advanced to the round of 16 in singles earlier this year at Roland Garros, taking out world No.1 Naomi Osaka in straight sets along the way. Pera upset Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova here on Tuesday.

 

Both players became frustrated early on with close line calls, as well as a lack of net calls on serves. These players are accustomed to Hawkeye challenges and electronic net calls, but those technologies are not being utilized at this tournament. This has been the root of aggravation for players all week long. In the first set, Siniakova would say to the chair umpire, “We play four games and there’s already five mistakes.” While she couldn’t know this for sure, the lack of technology leaves doubt in players’ minds. It also requires chair umpires to assert themselves more so than is customary nowadays.

Siniakova went up a break in the first and had a point for a double break, but a controversial line call would turn the set around. Pera struck an inside-out forehand extremely tight to the sideline, which was called in, to Siniakova’s dismay. Pera would go on to hold and then break in the next game, evening the set. And some big forehand returns at 5-4 would earn the American a second consecutive break and the set.

From there Pera’s punishing ground game continued to open up, gaining her the early break in the second. But with the set and a break lead, Bernarda’s winners started to turn to errors, allowing Katerina to break right back. Both held their serves for the remainder of the set, setting up a pivotal tiebreak. And these two would slug it out in the breaker, with some long, grueling rallies. A costly Siniakova double fault gave Pera two match points at 6-4, which Katerina saved by forcing the action just enough to goad Pera into making errors. At 6-6, a backhand down-the-line winner granted Siniakova a set point on her serve, which she converted by moving Pera all around the court.

In the third, Siniakova’s superior court coverage would earn her a break and a 3-1 advantage. Katerina would face multiple break points in the next game, but held for 4-1. And unlike Pera, Siniakova would not give back the lead, and took the third set 6-3.

The next quarterfinal was a serving battle, which was refreshing in a week where matches have contained so many breaks of serve. The tenth seed Karolina Muchova and qualifier Magda Linette would play 34 games and two tiebreaks in their three-setter, with only one break in the entire match. The 27-year-old Linette of Poland would not only claim that sole break to give her the second set, but also prevail in the third set tiebreak. She’ll face Siniakova in tomorrow’s semifinals.

In other action, Camila Giorgi just crushed Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-1. The Italian will face the top seed Qiang Wang, who dropped the first set today to Anna Blinkova 6-0, but came back to claim victory in three.

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