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Li Na: Carlos Says Just Relax

Carlos Rodriguez has installed a relaxed attitude in Li Na, boosting her ranking and helping ease marital strife in the process.

Published August 14, 2013 12:00

Li Na: Carlos Says Just Relax
Carlos Rodriguez, Li Na

When Li Na appointed Carlos Rodriguez as her coach 12 months ago, his task was twofold: re-establish his charge at the top of the game and also help to restore equilibrium in her work-life balance.

The Rodriguez effect was almost instantaneous, as Li took home the title at their first tournament together in Cincinnati. He also proved a dab hand at soothing things at home by relieving Li's husband, Jiang, of the majority of his coaching duties.

So, one year on, how does Li view the relationships with the two men in her life?

"I'm feeling pretty good - at least we're still working together!" Li said of Rodriguez, who has graduated from interim to full-time coach. "Carlos' role for me is not only to be a coach and teach me things on court, but also to save my marriage!

"I'm serious, because my husband is not my coach anymore and now we're both feeling a lot more relaxed."

While Rodriguez's involvement has seen Jiang take a back seat, the role of dutiful husband has, at times, not been the most comfortable of fits. Last week in Toronto, Rodriguez's absence meant Jiang, to the occasional irritation of his wife, donned the coaching hat once again.

"I know exactly what I should do on the court, but sometimes it's tough because I call him the coach but I do not listen. It's just like in the left and out the right," Li said, pointing to one ear and out the other. "But it was okay because it was only for one week."

Li also credits Rodriguez with helping her to rediscover her love of tennis, a feeling that was not always present in the immediate aftermath of her Grand Slam breakthrough at the 2011 French Open.

"I've been feeling much, much better this year," Li said. "I think the toughest time for me was the second half of 2011 after I won the Grand Slam. I didn't do well on the tennis court and I couldn't focus because I had so many things happening around me.

"For a whole year Carlos has been telling me all the time, 'Relax.' And I was saying, 'I am!'

"But he kept on saying, 'No, no, even more.' Eventually it started to work. Now, after one year I'm feeling now that I enjoy my tennis more. I don't have to think about all the things that are going on around me. I only have to think about what I actually do on the court."

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