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.



Li Na at the International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony (photo via

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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