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The Asian tennis icon who impressed Emma Raducanu

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Few gamers have ever had extra of an affect on the sport of tennis than Li Na.

The Chinese language star is a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, a former world quantity two and a nine-time winner on the WTA Tour.

And whereas these statistics alone don’t evaluate with the likes of Serena Williams or Steffi Graf, Na grew to become a trailblazer for future tennis stars in Asia –– establishing herself as some of the well-known and marketable athletes on the planet.

In 2019, Na was inducted into the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame, alongside the opposite greats of the game.

This is how the rebellious, but exceptional tennis star helped encourage a era.

Turning into a Grand Slam champion

Regardless of turning skilled in 1999, Na didn’t expertise instant success on the WTA Tour.

With the likes of Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and the Williams sisters dominating the circuit, Na gained simply two titles between 1999 and 2010.

Nonetheless, one thing clicked in 2010 when she reached her first Grand Slam semi-final on the Australian Open and the Chinese language star by no means seemed again after that.

Between 2011 and 2014, Na reached two main semi-finals, two finals and gained two Grand Slam titles.

Li Na

The primary, which got here on the 2011 French Open, made her the primary ever Grand Slam singles champion from Asia, whereas the second got here on the 2014 Australian Open.

Na additionally reached the semi-finals of her residence Olympics in Beijing in 2008, as the ultimate of the WTA Finals in 2013.

In February 2014, she reached a profession rating of second however was ultimately pressured to retire later that yr after requiring knee surgical procedure.

A sponsors dream

As essentially the most profitable participant in Asian tennis historical past, Na quickly grew to become a sponsor’s dream and was flooded with endorsement offers.

At one stage in 2012, she was reportedly incomes more cash than Serena Williams and was the second highest-paid feminine athlete on the planet.

Time journal even featured her on its entrance cowl in 2013 and named her as one of many 100 most influential folks on the earth.

Within the journal, fellow tennis legend Chris Evert wrote: “Tennis has exploded in China. The nation now has some 15 million tennis gamers; 116 million watched Li win the French Open. That type of publicity is essential to our sport, and it by no means would have occurred with out Li.

“At tournaments, I’ve seen her appeal the crowds. When she smiles, everybody melts. She’s simply such a breath of recent air. Her pleasant on-court demeanor di lei in addition to her hilariously-witty post-match interviews convey a smile to everybody’s face. “

Li Na

Na was not simply admired for her nationality however for her infectious persona as nicely.

After profitable the 2014 Australian Open, she famously thanked super-agent Max Eisenbud for ‘making her wealthy’, having acquired endorsements with Nike, Samsung and Mercedes, amongst different manufacturers.

Certainly, Eisenbud noticed one thing in Na that different brokers had missed and acknowledged the affect she may have globally.

“She’s principally the Billie Jean King of China,” he as soon as advised CNN. “Lei She broke down so many boundaries.”

Rebelling in opposition to the system

Regardless of being wanted by sponsors, Na was not afraid to talk out and battle for what she believed in.

This was exemplified by her quite a few run-ins with the Chinese language authorities’s sports activities applications and the rose tattoo on her chest –– supposedly a logo of affection for her husband.

In 2008, she stop China’s tennis program and began her personal crew, the place she was allowed to choose her personal coaches and maintain nearly all of her earnings.

Having grown up in China’s extremely centralized sports activities program – which is notorious for its strict administration and rigorous coaching –– Na’s mutiny was an indication that she had the ability to do as she happy.

Inspiring a era

Since Na retired in 2014, the variety of profitable Asian tennis gamers has risen, with the likes of Naomi Osaka now a four-time main winner.

Emma Raducanu, whose mom is from Shenyang, China, has beforehand harassed that Na was her idol rising up –– as has rising star Zheng Qinwen.

It is for that reason primarily that the 40-year-old has deservedly claimed her spot within the Corridor of Fame.

Na shouldn’t be essentially the most profitable tennis participant of all-time by any means, neither is she essentially the most proficient, however her total affect on the game is paralleled by few.
Whether or not it is the gamers she’s impressed or the followers she’s attracted, tennis in Asia is continuous to develop and it began with Na.


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