In last year's Australian Open Final, Li Na repeatedly halted play for the eager crowd of tennis aficionados. Not that they minded. Alongside her game, she endeared herself to the tennis public following a couple of ankle rolls, a clutzy head bang, and her comical approach to a concussion test.
China, your girl is the crowd favourite.
The above was tweeted by Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim a couple of days ago. Take a look at that Rolex ad on the official website of the Australian Open, which reads, "Rolex congratulates Li Na on winning her first Australian Open and second Grand Slam title."
We hope Li Na doesn't believe in jinxes, because she plays this afternoon against Dominika Cibulkova for a chance to win her first Australian Open and second Grand Slam title. The game is at 4:30 pm local (China) time.
The China Open tennis tournament began in Beijing over the weekend, but before the games that counted, there was this, a "Battle of the Sexes" between the world's top player, Novak Djokovic, and China's very own Li Na.
There's a chance you've known this for a while, since it was first reported on September 6 (by Indo-Asian News Service, of all places), but Li Na will face Novak Djokovic in a "battle of the sexes" on September 27 to mark the 10th year of the China Open at Beijing's National Tennis Center. It's a wonderful little PR stunt, pitting the world's top-ranked men's player against the women's No. 5 playing in her home tournament.
Fifth-seeded Li Na, playing with what she called nervous energy, beat 24th seed Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 yesterday to become the first Chinese player to ever reach the semifinals of the US Open at Flushing Meadows.
In an otherwise excellent piece on Chinese tennis star Li Na, Brook Larmer, writing in the New York Times, made one critical error, which Chinese media quickly pointed out. The offending passage originally read:
A politician, his wife, and a tennis star join the likes of Jay-Z, Bryan Cranston and Kim Jong-un as the only Chinese citizens on Time’s annual list of 100 most influential people in the world. (Ahem, “world.”) You probably can guess, but the three are Xi Jinping, Peng Liyuan, and Li Na. Here are snippets... Read more »
After winning the first set of the Australian Open final against defending champ and world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, Li Na rolled her ankle -- twice, the second time immediately following a 10-minute fireworks display in honor of Australia Day -- before falling in three sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
That Azarenka was on the other end of two medical timeouts was more than a little ironic.
Ever since advancing to the 2011 Australian Open final, becoming the first Chinese player to appear in a Grand Slam singles final, Li Na has been somewhat of a media darling in Melbourne. The 30-year-old, sixth-seeded Wuhan native beat Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3 on Tuesday to advance to the semis against Maria Sharapova, but not before serving up a bit of comedy.