China Gets It’s 1st Grand Slam Winner




French Open 2011 - Li Na

French Open 2011 – Li Na

China is responsible for a lot of things in this world. It gives us roughly half of the world’s products and just a shade under a third of the population. But it has never been a superpower in the sports world. That was to change when it was given the rights to host the Beijing Games in 2008. Amidst a lot of hue and cry regarding the human rights violations and pollution levels, it delivered a fantastic game. Not only were its ceremonies and infrastructure spectacular, it had created a sporting army that not only brought China to the fore as a sporting superpower but more importantly knocked USA of its perch.

In tennis however China was yet to produce a player capable of winning a Grand Slam. However even this wish was fulfilled when Li Na captured the 2011 French Open women’s singles title. This moment may have taken place some 2000 miles away in Roland Garros, Paris but its after effects will be felt in the time to come from all parts of China. And this has been a story of success unlike any other.

Li Na is not the quintessential tennis prodigy who broke on the scene in her teens. She started off as a badminton player but her coach convinced her to change to tennis. She took it up at the age of 9 and turned pro at the age of 17. However she did something shocking in 2002 when she left the national team as her relationship with her future husband Jiang Shan was opposed. She went back to college and received a degree in Journalism. When she came back to the court after 25 months, she created a record of sorts by winning 26 games successively. She rose steadily and by the end of the decade became a player who was held in highest regard.

2011 has become her breakthrough year of sorts. She started the year winning the 2011 Medibank Open beating the likes of Kuznetsova and Kim Clijsters enroute. She was seeded 9th at the Australian Open and she again surpassed expectations by reaching the finals, this time accounting for Victoria Azarenka and World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. She claimed the first set in the finals before succumbing to a bout of nerves as she lost 3–6, 6–3, 6–3.

She then went on a 5 match losing spree but still rose to No. 6 in the WTA rankings principally because Jelena Jankovic’s failure to retain points. She came to Paris and was seeded 6th for the tournament. She started steadily and made her way to a semi final against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova had been in sensational form in the tournament till now. Li Na accounted for Sharapova and confounded critics by entering her 2nd successive Grand Slam final. This time she was up against Francesca Schiavone, the defending champion from Italy. Li made sure that there was no repeat of the Australian Open this time as she swept to a 6-4, 7-6(7/0) win.

As Li sunk to the red clay in disbelief a burden lifted over the growing generation in China, the world’s most populous country. Finally all Chinese tennis aficionados have someone to look up to. And the most satisfactory thing is that this girl has spunk, she knows she plays well but does not hesitate to give it all up in a flash for the more important things in life. Winning is important to her but it is not the objective behind her playing the game, rather it’s her love for the game.

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