WTA World No.25 Dominika Cibulkova has revealed that she is to be part of a feature film based around the tennis career of Li Na.
The Chinese is the only player from her country to have won a Grand Slam event, and until Naomi Osaka won the US Open in September, the only Asian to have done so, having claimed the French Open in 2011 and subsequently the Australian Open of 2014, in which she overcame Cibulkova, 7-6(3), 6-0, in the final.
Although she retired from the game in September 2014, aged 32, she retains a place among the legends of the game.
Shooting for the film, which is to be produced by award-winning director Peter Chan, began in October, and Cibulkova has now revealed that she has taken time out from her off-season activities to play her role.
“Same, same but just NOT the same,” she said in an Instagram post. “So excited and proud to be invited to play my part in an upcoming movie about Li Na. Two days of filming in Wuhan right now is surreal and magical as it brings back so many memories. I truly miss you on tour my friend (even though I lost to you every single time!).”
Indeed, the pair faced off seven times in their careers, with the Chinese coming out on top in each meeting.
The film was initially scheduled for release in 2016 but has been persistently moved back.
Speaking in March, Li said: “Chan is an extreme perfectionist who almost drove the screenwriter crazy. I just want to let the audience know me as a whole person .... not just for my aggressive style on the court, but also my easygoing character.
“The filming will start later this year and director Chan has already selected the actress to play me in the movie.
“I've been learning and exploring a variety of different options since my retirement, but acting is never an option for me.
“I'm just not the type of person who would develop an interest in that part of the business.”
An unknown actress has been chosen to portray her in the movie, from her teenage years until retirement, and had to be drilled in tennis for two years in order to fulfil the role in as convincing a manner as possible.
Discussing the project, which is based around the player’s autobiography, in 2015, Chan said: “Li Na had an impossible dream and found a way to turn it into reality. She broke rules and defied conventions and, against all odds, became a legend.”