Li Begins New Chapter With Rodriguez
Published August 16, 2012 11:42
CINCINNATI, OH, USA - As the coach who masterminded Justine Henin's transformation from prodigiously gifted junior to seven-time Grand Slam champion, it is fair to say that Carlos Rodriguez knows a thing or two about winning.
And starting this week, the Belgium-based Spaniard will turn his attentions to helping out another major champion, Li Na.
Rodriguez will coach and travel with Li on a trial basis until the end of the season, taking over from her husband, Jiang Shan.
Li's first match under Rodriguez's tutelage comes against Johanna Larsson in Cincinnati on Friday, although, despite only meeting in person for the first time earlier this week, the two have already been talking tactics for quite some time.
"Carlos will be in Cincinnati with me," Li said. "But we have been in communication by e-mail for a while. After I won my first match in Montréal he wrote to me, giving me some information and advice on what I should do on the court."
And the early signs are promising. In Montréal, Li played some of her best tennis since winning the French Open last June, making it all the way to the final before coming up just short against Petra Kvitova.
Li began her search for a new coach after a surprise early exit at Wimbledon and was delighted, if a little surprised, upon hearing that Rodriguez had thrown his hat into the ring.
"After Wimbledon I texted to my agent, saying, 'I need to find a new coach,'" Li said. "Two weeks later, my agent said, 'Oh, we have one coach.' I said, 'Perfect, I need him.'
"Of course I knew of Carlos but I was so surprised he also wanted to help me."
Rodriguez is one of the most respected coaches in tennis after his 15-year stint alongside Henin and has received rave reviews since decamping to China to set up his Beijing tennis academy.
"Carlos now is living in China. He has an academy there so that will work well," the 30-year-old added. "I asked many coaches and they said, 'Oh, he's a very positive person and has good communication with the players' and that's exactly what I need right now.
"He did well with Justine and I know he's very good and I'm really looking forward to it."
Li is also hoping the appointment will help her and her husband restore equilibrium to the work-life balance.
"My husband has been doing a really good job but you know it is tough to separate between coach and husband sometimes," she said. "So I think for us everyday together is too much and I think having a new coach is good for both of us."