Li Na retires from tennis
Li Na, the two-time grand slam champion from China, has announced that she is quitting the game because of a long-term struggle with knee injuries.
Li has been a transformational presence for the sport in the Far East, having lifted the French Open crown in 2011 and then added the Australian Open in January this year. That took her up to No 2 in the world rankings, but her fight with injury has resulted in sliding down to No 6.
Her journey to the top was a long and often painful one, involving regular injections as well as three operations to manage the damaged cartilage in her right knee. Since going out in the third round of Wimbledon to Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, Li has been absent from the tour.
In a statement confirming her retirement, she said: “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. But in sport, just like in life, all great things must come to an end.Most people in the tennis world know that my career has been marked by my troubled right knee. The black brace I wear over it when I step on the court has become my tennis birth mark. And while the brace completes my tennis look, the knee problems have at times overtaken my life.
“After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100 per cent, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again. The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100 per cent.
“Winning a Grand Slam title this year and achieving a ranking of world No 2 is the way I would like to leave competitive tennis. As hard as it’s been to come to this decision, I am at peace with it.
“I’ve succeeded on the global stage in a sport that a few years ago was in its infancy in China. What I’ve accomplished for myself is beyond my wildest dreams. What I accomplished for my country is one of my most proud achievements.”
Managed by Max Eisenbud, who also looks after the interests of Maria Sharapova and Laura Robson, Li was one of the highest earners in the sport – indeed Sharapova was the only player on the women’s tour to outstrip her.
She was a particularly popular figure in Melbourne, where the crowds enjoyed her Punch-and-Judy-ish banter with husband and former coach, Jian Shang.
“I see Li Na as a Billie-Jean King type figure,” Eisenbud told the BBC this summer. “They are both pioneers who have broken down a lot of barriers. She opened doors – she has sent out a message to young Chinese people that you can be successful at whatever you want.”