TENNIS – With a long letter posted on her Facebook page, world number 6 Li Na explained why she decided to retire from professional tennis.
Friday 19th of September 2014
My dear friends,
For close to fifteen years, we’ve been a part of each other’s lives. 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.
Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honor. 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.
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.
Most people in the tennis world know that my career has been marked by my troubled right knee. The black brace I wear over it when I step on the court has become my tennis birth mark. And while the brace completes my tennis look, the knee problems have at times overtaken my life.
After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding. My previous three surgeries were on my right knee. My most recent knee surgery took place this July and was on my left knee. After a few weeks of post-surgery recovery, I tried to go through all the necessary steps to get back on the court.
While I’ve 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 WTA tournament in my hometown of Wuhan. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100%, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again. The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100%.
Winning 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tennis is an individual sport and as players, our job is to spend a lot of time focusing on ourselves. But no player can ever become a champion alone and nobody knows this better than me. There isn’t enough space here to thank everyone who has travelled on my journey with me and contributed to my success. But I must thank those that have stuck with me through the highs and the lows and have helped me become the person that I am today.
THANK YOU TO:
• My mother – for your never-ending support. Through the laughs and the tears, you’ve always been there for me.
• My father – you were taken away from me way too early and I haven’t been the same since. You’ve remained the sunshine in my life and I am who I am because of you.
• Jiang Shan – you’ve been by my side for 20 years. You are my everything and I am grateful to have shared my life with you.
• My first coaches Ms. Xia Xiyao and Ms. Yu Liqiao – for putting me on the tennis path.
• Madame Sun and the Chinese Tennis Association – thank you for being trailblazers for tennis in China.
• Mr. Hu Dechun and the Hubei Sports Bureau – for understanding me and supporting me through the years.
• Women’s Tennis Association – for your passion for women’s tennis and hard work growing it around the world.
• Mr. Chan Hongchang – for supporting me when I first decided to become a professional tennis player in 2008. You helped me make up my mind.
• Thomas Hogstedt – for introducing me to professional tennis.
• Michael Mortenson – for helping me win my first Grand Slam.
• Carlos Rodriguez – for pushing me beyond the limits I thought I could reach.
• Alex Stober – for taking care of me all of these years and pulling me together when I was falling apart.
• Erich Rembeck and Johannes Wieber – for finding a way to make me pain free, over and over again.
• Fred Zhang and the Nike team – you’ve been my guiding light, my support system and my biggest cheerleader. I will never forget it.
• To my agent Max Eisenbud and the entire IMG Team – for being the best management company in the world and for taking care of me every day.
• To all the sponsors that have supported me through every stage of my career.
• To my relatives, friends, and everyone who has helped me throughout my career – for always being there for me and for your never-ending support.
• To my fellow tennis players – for being a part of my journey all of these years. I have so much respect for all of you.
• To everyone in the media who’s covered my career and helped the growth of tennis in China and around the world.
• To the amazing tennis fans around the world – for your unyielding support of our sport and for playing every tennis match along with me.
• And lastly, to tennis fans in China – for getting on the bandwagon and staying on it! I am grateful to each and every one of you for pushing me to be my best, embracing me and loving me unconditionally. There is no limit to how far we can take the sport of tennis in China, together.
When I started playing tennis, I was just a neighborhood 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.
Whether 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.
Madison Keys Collects Cincinnati Trophy With Battling Win Over Kuznetsova
Madison Keys capped an outstanding week by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to take home the Cincinnati title.
Madison Keys claimed the biggest title of her career by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 7-6(5) in the Western and Southern Open final in Cincinnati.
It was an amazing week for the American, particularly as she had only won one match in the last two months leading up the event.
The World No.18 referenced this lack of form when she thanked her team for their help and said to them, “If you told me a week ago this was where I would be, I would have laughed in your face.”
Conditions were slower for the final than they had been in previous rounds due to the high levels of humidity in the air, and Keys struggled to adjust initially. She dropped her serve in the opening game and fell 3-1 behind.
However, the American gradually began to adapt. She almost broke in game six, held off three break points in game seven and then eventually got the break she needed in game ten thanks to intelligent point construction and typically ferocious hitting.
With her confidence restored, Keys held easily to move 6-5 ahead. She then capitalised on some weak serving from Kuznetsova to break again and clinch the opening set.
Keys fights back again in the second set
To the Russian’s credit, she responded well to her disappointment. She manoeuvred the American around the court and drew several errors from her racket to open up a 3-1 lead once again.
Keys did not panic. She hit a series of trademark winners during three excellent service games that enabled her to stay in touch with Kuznetsova at 5-4.
Unfortunately for the Russian, she seemed just as nervous when she served for the second set as she had been in the first. She did not make many first serves or put the American under much pressure with her groundstrokes. This produced a predictable result: another break of serve for the World No.18.
Keys survived a break point on her serve to make it 6-5. Then Kuznetsova steadied herself to hold comfortably and avoid losing four games in a row as she did in the opener.
After five routine points in the tie-break, the American earned a mini-break to go 4-2 up. She hit a deep backhand and the Russian could do nothing more than hit it into the net.
Keys maintained her two-point advantage to set up two championship points at 6-4. On the second, she sealed glory with a powerful serve that Kuznetsova found too hot to handle.
Carlos Ramos Won’t Umpire Serena Williams’ US Open Matches Following Infamous Clash
They two will be kept apart, but will it be enough to stop people talking about their previous confrontation?
23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos will be kept apart during the US Open following their high-profile spat at the tournament 12 months ago.
During the final of the US Open last year, controversy erupted when Ramos issued Williams with a violation for receiving coaching from the stands. Something which is prohibited in grand slam tennis. A livid Williams denied any wrongdoing immediately after. Suggesting the decision was sexist before calling the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief.’ In total, Williams was hit with three violations that resulted in a game penalty.
Stacy Allaster, who is the president of the USTA, has confirmed that Ramos will not be allowed to officiate Williams or her sister’s Venus’ matches during the grand slam. Saying that she didn’t want to cause a ‘distraction.’ This decision is said to be applied only to the 2019 tournament.
“We don’t need to go there,” Allaster told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “There are more than 900 matches here over the three weeks, and there are lots of matches for Carlos to do.”
“We want to be focused on the competition and want to go forward,” she added.
Ramos, who is from Portugal, was never found guilty of doing anything wrong during the match. The International Tennis Federation issued a statement shortly after the incident. In it, they said that Ramos ‘undertook his duties as an official, according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.’
Regardless of the move by the USTA to try and stay clear of the Williams-Ramos incident, it is set to be thrown back into the media spotlight in the coming days. Sports network ESPN will air a documentary called “Serena vs. The Umpire” on Sunday for the first time. It will be narrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr.
“We’re exploring stories that are unresolved and have layers to them, and that’s certainly the case with what happened at last year’s US Open women’s final,” said John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Special Projects and Original Content. “With this and subsequent stories, viewers will follow along with Don on his deep dive for truth.”
The TV program is set to include Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Williams. Pam Shriver and Chris Evert are also set to feature.
The US Open will get underway on August 26th.
Madison Keys Marches Into Cincinnati Final With Win Over Kenin
Madison Keys set up a intriguing final against Svetlana Kuznetsova with an excellent straight-sets win over Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals.
Madison Keys advanced to her ninth career final with an impressive 7-5 6-4 win over Sofia Kenin at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The American, 24, has endured a patchy year on the WTA tour. But she found a rich vein of form in the early rounds to defeat Garbine Muguruza, Daria Kasatkina and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.
And by the time Keys set about dispatching Venus Williams in straight sets in the quarter-final, she looked full of confidence.
The World No.18 started in similar fashion against Kenin. She dominated her first two service games and broke the younger American in the fourth game to establish a 3-1 lead. She then held off a couple of break points in game five to increase her advantage to 4-1.
But Kenin is a fighter and she had no intention of giving up on the set. She broke Keys in game nine to make it 5-4 and then saved two break points to level the score.
The older American did not panic. She held serve comfortably and then hit a couple of excellent winners to break the 20-year-old for the second time in the set and take it 7-5.
Keys triumphs in close second set
There were a few momentum swings in the second set. Keys held to love in the first game but dropped her serve during a sloppy third game. Kenin then consolidated the break with a comfortable hold.
In response, the World No.18 fired down three aces as she held serve to love in just 42 seconds. She then unleashed a stream of winners to break the younger American and level the score at 3-3.
Both women played superb return games as they traded breaks to move the score along to 4-4. Then Keys unleashed a series of ferocious groundstrokes to repel a break point and hold for 5-4.
After an intense conversation with her father at the changeover, Kenin looked a bit subdued in game ten. She sent down a weak second serve on the second point which was punished by a backhand winner from the World No.18.
The 20-year-old made a double-fault to slip 15-30 behind. Then she came into the net and could only watch and admire as Keys guided a sublime backhand pass into the opposite service box for a winner that set up two match points.
The World No.18 did not have to wait long to celebrate victory, as an unforced error from Kenin on the next point sealed her win.
Keys will play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final. The Russian continued her impressive week with an eye-catching 6-2 6-4 win over World No.2 Ashleigh Barty.
“I’m very happy to be in the final,” the American said. “Sveta has been playing incredibly well. She is a craftier player with a little bit of everything. It will be a pretty difficult match but I’m looking forward to it.”
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