Li Na

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  • Sport: Tennis
  • Born:February 26, 1982,Wuhan, Hubei
  • Residence:China

Li Na is the most successful tennis player in the history of Chinese sport. She won two Grand Slam singles titles - the 2011 French Open and the 2014 Australian Open - and also reached the finals of the Australian Open in both 2011 and 2013. 

Biography

These achievements made her the first Chinese and Asian player to win a Grand Slam, the first to reach a Grand Slam final and the first to reach the top ten in the world rankings. She was forced to retire prematurely from tennis at the age of 32 because of persistent knee injuries.

Li Na has been in a large part responsible for the dramatic growth of tennis in China, which now has 15 million players. A total of 116 million Chinese watched her French Open victory on television.

She says: “Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honour. Having the unique opportunity to effectively bring more attention to the sport of tennis in China and all over Asia is something I will cherish forever.”

In 2008, there were two professional women’s tennis tournaments in China, today there are ten, one of them in Wuhan, Li Na’s hometown. “Just as I didn’t think I could ever be a Grand Slam champion, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that some of the best female athletes in the world could play tennis in Wuhan, in my backyard,” says Li Na, who plans to continue to grow the sport of tennis in China.

“These plans include opening the Li Na Tennis Academy, which will provide scholarships for the future generation of Chinese tennis stars. I will also stay involved in the Right to Play, an organisation dedicated to helping underprivileged children overcome challenges through sport. My philanthropic work will expand as I continue to dedicate myself to helping those in need.”

Li Na was encouraged to play badminton from the age of six by her father Li Shengpeng, who was a professional badminton player. She switched to tennis two years later at the suggestion of the coach from the local Wuhan youth tennis club.

She joined the China national tennis squad in 1997 then was sponsored by Nike to go to the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in Texas for ten months, before turning professional at the age of 16, in 1999.

An aggressive baseline player, she had quick reflexes, athleticism and powerful groundstrokes. Her backhand down-the-line was one of her strongest shots. She had an excellent defensive game, combining great footwork, speed and lateral movement.

In her career she also reached the semi-finals of the US Open, the quarter-finals of Wimbledon three times and she finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In addition to the two Grand Slam victories, Li Na won seven other WTA events. She reached her best ever position of No 2 in the world rankings in February 2014.

Li Na was nominated for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award in 2012, after her victory at Roland Garros. After her second Grand Slam win in Australia, she received the 2015 Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award.