Li Na Becomes First Asian-Born Hall Of Famer, Addresses The Future of Chinese Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Li Na Becomes First Asian-Born Hall Of Famer, Addresses The Future of Chinese Tennis

It was a day to remember for the Chinese tennis legend on Saturday.

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Li Na at the International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony (photo via https://twitter.com/TennisHalloFame)

Almost five years after retiring from the sport, Li Na has achieved another milestone for Asian Tennis after being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

The 37-year-old is the first ever Asian-born player to achieve the accolade, which recognises players who have made a significant contribution to the sport. The former world No.2 broke a series of records during her career. Becoming the first Chinese player to break into the world’s top five and win a grand slam title. In 2011 she defeated Francesca Schiavone to win the French Open. Three years later she added to her major tally by claiming the Australian Open trophy in 2014. Li ended her career with a total of eight WTA titles.

“We all know that to make it into the Hall of Fame, you have to be an accomplished tennis player. Most impressive about Li Na, is that [she’s] been a true pioneer: not just for tennis, not just for women, but for all of China,” Li’s former agent Max Eisenbud said during the official presentation in Newport on Saturday.

Li is regarded as an icon of tennis back in her home country and has been credited for helping its popularity. More than 116 million people in China watched her French Open final on TV. In recent years more high-profile tournaments have taken place in Asia. The latest will be the WTA Finals, which will be held in Shenzhen this year with a record prize money pool up for grabs.

“Right now you can see after US Open there’s a lot of, lot of tournaments in China. Also WTA Final, will be for 10 years in Shenzhen. I think it’s very good for the athletes and also for the fans.” She said.
“For Chinese tennis future, I will guess maybe five to 10 years, I wish they had another Grand Slam champion.”

At present there are four female Chinese players in the top 100. The highest is Qiang Wang at 14th. However, on the men’s tour there is non in the top 200. Li is still the only person from her country to have played in a grand slam singles final.

“Tennis in China has grown up a lot. Especially right now you can see a lot of athletes play on the tour.” She explained.
“Three in top 50 in the women’s tour. I think is much, much better. I believe they have even better in the future.”

Pierce and Kafelnikov also honoured

Li is one of three former players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Another is Mary Pierce. The Frenchwoman was ranked as high as third in the world and won 18 singles titles on the WTA Tour. Including the 1995 Australian Open and 2000 French Open. It was during the 2000 French Open where she also won the doubles titles alongside Martina Hingis. A double that is rarely achieved in grand slam tennis nowadays. Coincidentally, it was Na who she played against in her final grand slam match at the 2006 US Open, which she lost 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.

“In the first set, things were going okay. I lost the second set 6-Love. I thought, What is happening? I didn’t know Li Na before. I was like, Who is this player from China?” Pierce recounted.
“Then she played amazing, like super solid, really well. I lost the third set 6-Love. I came off the court. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I just lost to this player. She wasn’t known at that time. I thought that was a bad loss for me.’
“Now look where we are today, both being inducted in the Hall of Fame, which is incredible. Of course, it wasn’t a bad loss, and she’s an amazing champion.”

Pierce was also a top-five doubles player and won 10 titles on the women’s tour. In the mixed doubles, she also excelled by winning the 2005 Wimbledon title alongside India’s Mahesh Bhupathi.

Finally Russia’s Kafelnikov is the only one of the trio to be a former world No.1 player. His grand slam triumphs occurred at the 1996 French Open and 1999 Australian Open. In total, he won 26 ATP titles over an eight-year period. He is one of only two Russian men to have topped the rankings. The other is Marat Safin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2016.

Kafelnikov was also the first man to ever defeat Roger Federer on a hard court, grass-court and on the carpet. Something he was unaware of until this weekend.

“Roger was very young when we played against each other. I was very mature. I was winning majors already. Roger was 19 years old, kid, if I can say that.” He reflected.
“I remember Roger very well, how we played it. He wasn’t as good at the time like he is right now. But to have that record against Roger is a big thing. I honestly did not know that I beat him three different surfaces.”

During his career Kafelnikov defeated 46 top 10 players and earned $23,883,797 in prize money.

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Dominic Thiem, Diego Schwarzman, Guido Pella and Matteo Berrettini lead the field in Buenos Aires

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Three of the four semifinalists from last year’edition Diego Schwartzman, Dominic Thiem and Guido Pella will return to the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club for the 2020 edition of the ATP 250 Tournament in Buenos Aires. The line-up also features this year’s US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini, who recently qualified for the London Nitto ATP Finals.

 

Thiem won two editions of the Buenos Aires in 2016 and 2018 and reached the semifinal last year. Schwartzman lost last year’s final against Marco Cecchinato after beating Thiem in the semifinal after 2 hours and a half.

Guido Pella will play in the main draw in Buenos Aires for the eighth consecutive year. The Argentine player won his first ATP title in Sao Paulo on indoor clay and reached the final in Cordoba, the semifinal in Buenos Aires, the quarter finals in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Munich, Wimbledon and Antwerp.

The list of past winners in Buenos Aires features Gustavo Kuerten, Carlos Moya, Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio, David Nalbandian, Tommy Robredo, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

 

 

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Fabio Fognini: “Italian tennis is growing”

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Fabio Fognini enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019 winning his first Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo against Dusan Lajovic after beating Alexander Zverev in the quarter final and Rafael Nadal in the semifinal. He became the first Italian player to win an ATP Masters 1000 title and the first Italian to reach the top 10 since Corrado Barazzutti in 1979. The Italian player also reached the quarter finals in Hamburg, Los Cabos, Montreal, Beijing and Shanghai.

 

Fognini revealed during an interview with Italian sport channel Sky Sport that he has started his training for the 2020 season in Rome under the guidance of Corrado Barazzutti.

“I have started practising again only a few days ago. I am pretty tired also because I took some time off after the Davis Cup. I was with my family and now I am back on the tennis court. Corrado Barazzutti is coaching me. I am happy because we trust a lot each other. The main thing is to train well. I will spend Christmas with my family since my second child will come and then I will try to start in a proper way in Australia ”.

The World number 12 star looked back at a great season for Italian tennis, which was highlighted by the US Open semifinal reached by Matteo Berrettini, the triumph of Jannik Sinner at the Next Gen ATP Final in Milan and Lorenzo Musetti’s win in the Australian Open Junior tournament.

“We had a magical year in Italy. Everything started with Marco Cecchinato’s French Open semifinals in 2018. Then I won in Monte-Carlo, Matteo Berrettini reached the US Open semifinals and he cracked the top ten. We have very promising younger guys like Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti. The men’s Italian tennis is growing. I am sorry for how it went in the Davis Cup as we failed to reach the quarter finals. Now it’s time to recharge batteries and be ready for the Australian Open”.

 

Fognini is likely to miss the ATP Cup in Australia, because his wife Flavia Pennetta will be due to give birth to their child, and will start his season in Auckland one week before the Australian Open.

 

 

 

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Anna-Lena Groenefeld announces the end of her career

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Anna-Lena Groenefeld has ended her career to start a family. The 34-year-old German player started her professional career in 2003 after becoming the first German player since 1957 to win the Junior French Open and the junior world number 1 in both singles and doubles disciplines.

 

Groenefeld won a WTA singles title in Acapulco in 2006 beating Flavia Pennetta in Acapulco and advanced the quarter finals at the French Open in the same year. She achieved the best results of her career in doubles reaching her career-high of number 7, qualified seven Grand Slam semifinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open and won two mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon 2009 and at the US Open 2014. Groenefeld reached three Premier 5 doubles finals in Rome, Toronto and Cincinnati and the semifinals in her farewell tournament at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen with her partner Demi Schuurs.

Groenefeld announced on social media:

“This little girl had dreams. For the last 18 years, she was able to live one of them. Now it’s time to hopefully fulfil another dream of having a family. I want to say thank you to everyone, who was by my side through all those years in the ups and downs. My family, friends and all of you who followed and supported me all those years. Thank you”.

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