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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Poland, Great Britain, Japan and Slovakia book their spot in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals

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Iga Swiatek beat Swiss teenager Celine Naef 6-4 6-3 in the Qualifiers in Biel to book Poland a spot in the Billie Jean King Finals, which will be held in Seville next November. Poland took an insurmountable 3-0 win over Switzerland in the best-of-five qualifying round. 

Naef went up an early break in the third game of the first set to take a 2-1 lead. Swiatek reeled off six consecutive games to build up a 6-4 4-0 lead, but Naef pulled back on serve at 3-4, but Swiatek reeled off the final two games to win the win the second set 6-3 after 1 hour and 23 minutes. 

Swiatek sealed her seventh consecutive match win at the Billie Jean King Cup. 

“I am super happy and proud of everybody. It’s been a really fun week, so I am happy that this week so I am happy that this time I could lead my team to be in the finals. Hopefully we are going to finish it in November, but I am super proud of what we achieved for these two days”, said Swiatek. 

Emma Raducanu and Katie Boulter earned Great Britain a 3-1 win over France. 

Diane Perry won 12 consecutive games from 0-2 down to beat Katie Boulter 6-2 6-0 in the first match on Friday.

Emma Raducanu, US Open champion in 2021, came back from a set and a break down to beat Caroline Garcia 3-6 6-3 6-2 levelling the tie to 1-1. 

Both players traded breaks in the first set before Garcia broke again in the eighth  game to win the first set 6-3. 

Garcia went up a break in the first game of the second set, but Raducanu reeled off six of the next seven games to win the second set 6-3. Raducanu broke twice in the third and fifth games and closed out the match with a smash at the net. 

During the second day Katie Boulter beat Clara Burel 7-5 6-0 to win the first tour-level clay-court match of her career, earning Great Britain a 2-1 lead. 

Raducanu came back from one set down to beat Diana Parry 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1) securing Great Britain a spot in the final with an unassailable 3-1 win. 

Parry earned an early break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Raducanu broke back in the third game and held serve in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Parry broke for the second time in the 10th game to close out the first set 6-4. Parry saved five of the six break points she faced, while Raducanu did not either of the two chances she faced. 

Raducanu went up an early break in the first game of the second set. The 2021 US Open champion withstood a five-deuce second game and saved a break point. The British player earned two breaks in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-1. 

Raducanu won the last 14 points of the second set. 

Parry earned an early break in the first game of the third set. Raducanu reeled off four consecutive games to take a 4-1 lead with two breaks of serve. She served for the match at 5-4. 

Raducanu held two match points. Parry saved the first match point with a passing shot winner. Raducanu missed her second chance with a forehand error, before Parry broke back after a long backhand from Raducanu in the ninth game for 4-5. 

Raducanu fended off two break points to hold serve for 6-5. The British player earned two mini-breaks and forced an error with her forehand on her third match point to win the wrap up the tie-break 7-1 after 2 hours and 52 minutes. 

“To be able to play two matches like that back to back, it’s a testament to what I have been doing. I am just glad it was able to show”, said Raducanu. 

British captain Anne Kheotavong after Great Britain’s win over France. 

“I think it’s going to take a lot of work to wipe this smile off my smile. What a win ! The atmosphere was just absolutely rocking. Katie and Emma came out to play. They put out some fantastic performances against tough opposition. I am just chuffed for the team, we came out and we knew it was going to be difficult to be the underdogs, but we came, we performed and we are all leaving with a big smile on our face”, said Anne Kheotavong. 

Japan, Australia and Slovakia also secured their spot for the Billie Jean King Cup Final. 

Japan went ahead Kazakhstan 3-0 over Kazakhstan. The Japanese team did not need Naomi Osaka to play a second match on an indoor hard court in Tokyo. Osaka beat Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-2 7-6 (7-5). Nao Hibino beat Putintseva 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9-7) on Saturday. Putintseva held four consecutive match points in the tie-break of the third set. Hibino saved them to win the tie-break 9-7 to seal a 3-0 lead for Japan. Hibino won her second win at this year’s edition of the Bille Jean King Cup Qualifiers after beating Anna Danilina 6-1 6-0 on Friday. 

Australia went up 3-0 over Mexico to book their spot in the Finals on an outdoor court in Brisbane. Eighteen-year-old Taylah Preston secured the decisive point with a 6-1 6-1 win over Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias. 

Preston won 73% of Zacarias’ second serve points and broke six times. 

Slovakia, Billie Jean King Cup champions in 2022, qualified for the Finals when 16-year-old Renata Jamrichova, Australian Open Junior champion in 2024, beat Veronika Erjavic 6-2 6-0 in 64 minutes, on an indoor court in Bratislava to earn a 3-0 win over Slovenia.

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Novak Djokovic reaches the semifinal in Monte-Carlo for the first time since 2015

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Novak Djokovic beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 2 hours and four minutes to reach the semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the first time since his triumph in 2015. 

Djokovic avenged his recent defeat to De Minaur at the United Cup to improve to 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against his Australian opponent. 

Djokovic converted five of his eleven break points. De Minaur saved five of the six break points he faced. 

Djokovic faced two break points in the opening game, but he saved them and held serve after De Minaur made a backhand error. Both players went on serve without facing any break points until the ninth game. De Minaur squandered game points as he was serving to stay in the set at 4-5. The Australian player saved a set point with a forehand winner and held serve. Djokovic saved a break point to hold serve in the 11th game after a forehand error. 

De Minaur fended off two set points at 5-6. Djokovic converted his third break after a loose drop shot from De Minaur to seal the first set 7-5. 

There were five straight breaks in the second set. Djokovic earned his fourth break point in the sixth game after De Minaur sent a backhand long. Djokovic went up a 40-15 lead in the seventh game, but De Minaur fought back by winning four straight points to break back for 4-3. Both players held serve in the eighth and ninth games. De Minaur served to stay in the match at 4-5. Djokovic clinched his fourth break of the set to book his spot in the semifinal. 

“It was tough for both of us. He is one of the quickest players on Tour. He gets a lot of balls back that normally 99% of other players don’t. He did not surprise me with several passing shots. Particularly in the second set when I was up a break, but he said at the net it was ugly. The second set I think it was. We did not play at the high level and made a lot of unforced errors, him and I, and a lot of breaks of serve. It is kind of expected on clay but maybe not this many, but a win is a win but I am happy to be through”, said Djokovic. 

Djokovic set up a semifinal clash against Casper Ruud, who  recovered from losing the second set to beat Ugo Humbert 6-3 4-6 6-1. 

Ruud broke twice in the fifth and ninth games to win the first set 6-3. The Norwegian player went up a set and a break at 6-3 2-0, but Humbert won four consecutive games to take a 4-2 lead with two breaks of serve. Ruud held on his next two service games to win the second set 6-4. 

Ruud broke serve in the fourth and sixth games and served out the win on his second match point. 

“It was tough. It was back and forth. I started great and I was up 6-3 2-0 after 50 minutes. I was playing really good tennis and then I stumbled a bit. I lost maybe ten points in a row at one point there, so I had to try and stop the bleeding. I was not able to in the second set, but in the third set I was a bit fortunate I got the break early and then saved a few break points. God knows how, but luckily they landed inside the lines”, said Ruud. 

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Jannik Sinner reaches his second consecutive semifinal in Monte-Carlo

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Second seed Jannik Sinner battled past Holger Rune 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 after 2 hours and 41 minutes to reach his second consecutive semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Sinner becomes the only player to reach the semifinals at all three Masters 1000 tournaments this season. 

Sinner has drawn level to 2-2 in his four head-to-head matches against Rune. 

Sinner has improved to 14-2 against top 10 opponents since last September. 

Sinner set up a semifinal clash against 2021 and 2022 Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-2 in the quarter final. Tsitsipas has a career win-loss record of 18-3 in Monte-Carlo. 

Rune did not convert a break point in the fourth game of the first set. Sinner earned the only break of the opening set in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Neither player earned a single break point in the next games. Sinner held on his next service games and served out the first set with a hold at love. 

Rune recovered from 0-40 to hold for 3-2. The Danish player fended off three break points at 6-5 to hold serve at deuce. Sinner earned two set points at 6-4 in the tie-break, but Rune fired a winner to start a four-point streak to clinch the tie-break 8-6. 

Rune held his second break point at 2-2 30-40, but Sinner saved it before winning 12 of the final 15 points to win the third set 6-3 improving his win-loss record to 25-1 this season. “It took a lot to win this match. Playing against Rune is never easy, especially on this kind of occasion, so I am very happy that I won today but mostly about the level I gave. I raised it today a little bit. It was more physical, there were more rallies today. My general feelings were better, so I am very excited about tomorrow’s match. Even I lose today, I learn again, so I am very happy about today. It has been  a very tough match. I am very happy about the win”, said Sinner.

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