Li Na's 'What If' Moment
Published February 03, 2014 12:13
Li Na is currently the toast of the tennis world and deservedly so.
Having ended 2013 ranked at a career-high No.3, a glorious start to the new season culminated with a second major, following a straight set victory over Dominika Cibulkova in the final of the Australian Open.
However, Li's success Down Under - not to mention that acceptance speech - could so easily not have happened at all.
As China's No.1 player and first Grand Slam singles champion, Li has always faced intense scrutiny from the press corps in her homeland, and last summer the media fallout from a disappointing clay court season saw her touch down in London ahead of Wimbledon contemplating walking away from the sport.
"At that moment it was not about how I was hitting the ball on the court," Li said about her ordeal following a second round loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the French Open. "There were so many things going on off the court.
"It was all very negative. I could say something but they would then write down in the newspaper something totally different. They give me a very tough time when I played the French Open, and it continued at Wimbledon."
Yet with Li approaching breaking point, she produced some of her best tennis of the year, reaching the quarterfinals at the All-England Club before falling to Agnieszka Radwanska in arguably the match of the tournament.
"I was really happy that I did well at Wimbledon, and that's probably why I continued," Li added. "If I hadn't played well there, I don't know where I'd be now!"
After Wimbledon, a rejuvenated Li embarked upon the most consistent run of her career, reaching the semifinals in Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open before closing the year by finishing runner-up to Serena Williams at the WTA Championships in Istanbul.
And what of the future? Fitness permitting, the 31-year-old has no plans on going anywhere.
"You know, the body is more important. I cannot promise I will play another three or four years. But if I am still feeling healthy, I still love this sport, I will continue."