NEW YORK, NY, USA - As Li Na celebrates her past with an induction into the 2019 Class of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the former World No.2 was looking towards the future and the upcoming Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
"It's not only good for the fans, it’s also good for the athletes, especially the young athletes,” she said at a City Parks Foundation kid's clinic on Thursday.
“Face-to-face they can see the top players. It’s not only [important] on the court but also off the court, the professional tennis."
Li was all smiles at the Sutton East Tennis Club, where she posed for pictures and answered questions for the young children in attendance, later giving pointers on how to mimic her famed groundstrokes.
“When they decide to do one thing, don’t give up and just keep going. I know it’s very tough but believe in yourself. You are stronger than you know.”
The 2011 Roland Garros champion retired in 2014, shortly after winning her second major title at the Australian Open, and was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame alongside fellow two-time Grand Slam winner Mary Pierce and former ATP World No.1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov earlier this year.
“I think the women’s side is much easier because after I won the Grand Slam, young girls think they can do the same,” she said of her impact on Chinese tennis. “For the men’s, it’s a little bit tough.”
The next generation of players has seen the likes of Zhang Shuai reach Grand Slam quarterfinals - most recently at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships - and win this year's Australian Open women's doubles title with Samantha Stosur, while Wang Qiang is the highest ranked Chinese woman since Li was on tour, peaking at World No.15 this week.
"I think the WTA is doing a very good job helping young players. Tennis is a job, not only on the court but off the court, like press conferences and talking to the media. The way they bring juniors to the WTA Finals to see the top players is important, so that way they can see what the professional tour is like."