Olympic Athletes >> Na Li

Na Li

Na Li

Date of birth

1982-02-26

Birthplace

Wuhan

Height

172 cm

Weight

65.0 kg

Grand Slam titles

1 (up to 20/03/2012)

Tournament victories

5

Best year-end ATP world ranking

5th (2011)

Olympic Games

  • Singles: 4th (2008)

Grand Slam Tournaments

  • Australian Open: Finalist (2011)
  • French Open: winner (2011)
  • Wimbledon: Quarter-finals (2006, 2010)
  • US Open: Quarter-finals (2009)

Grand slam Li an unlikely star

Li Na helped popularise what was an elite sport in China when at the start of the 2011 season she became the first Asian to reach a Grand Slam singles final at Melbourne before going on to actually lift the title at Roland Garros in June.

Feisty, tattooed, and a straight-talker with a constant sense of humour, Li's victory in the French Open final over defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy, was in many ways an unlikely story.

In late 2008, Li was freed by Chinese authorities in what was called a 'Fly Alone' experimental policy, where choice of coach, program and a greatly reduced contribution of winnings to the national sports set up, were part of an initiative to help certain athletes turn talent into titles.

The formula seems to have worked perfectly with Li, who chose to be coached by her husband Jiang Sha and to concentrate on WTA events rather than the national team and Fed Cup tournaments.

Consistency saw her gradually climb the WTA rankings and she became the first Chinese woman to break into the top 20.

Despite an average serve and weak forehand, she has great movement and mental strength. Her pounding, two-handed backhand forces opponents to the baseline, allowing her to finish them off with some of her less powerful shots.

Shut Up

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, everything was going great when she beat both Svetlana Kuznetsova and then Venus Williams with the crowd chanting her name in an overly partizan manner, provoking her to actually tell the crowd to shut up!

However she subsequently lost her semi-final to Russian Dinara Safina and also lost the bronze medal match against her compatriot Vera Zvonareva.

The following season started badly with injury although she did graduate with a degree in journalism that year. She also made an eye catching run to the quarter-finals of the US Open, and in 2010 made the last eight of a second Grand Slam, this time on the grass at Wimbledon, although pundits would say her game is better suited to the hard courts of Flushing Meadows.

Then comes Li's unforgettable purple patch which began with a run to the final at the Australian Open, defeating the then world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the semi-finals despite conceding the first set.

She perhaps had the misfortune of meeting the hotly supported "Aussie" Kim Clijsters in the final, winning the first set but finally going down in three sets and later saying her nerves had gradually got the better of her.

But this disappointment was wiped out in Paris with a brilliant run on the red clay which saw her beat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals and the defending champion Schiavone to enter into Chinese folklore as their first ever Grand Slam singles champion.

Li, from Wuhan and who was first introduced to the racket by her badminton playing father, will go out to London as a fully mature 30-year-old who has twice reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, where the Olympic tennis tournament will be hosted.


Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.