Li Na in the eyes of pundits, pros

( ) Updated: 2014-01-25 21:40:31

China Daily contact tennis experts and professional players ahead of the women's Austrilian Open Final on Saturday. Let's hear what they say on Li Na.


Peter Johnston WTA Asia Pacific Managing Director

We are already seeing the great benefits of Li Na’s outstanding successes and this latest triumph will further add to the great momentum for women’s tennis n china. It is such an exciting time for wta tennis and her efforts will inspire a new generation of tennis players from china. Lina's success had led to new interests from new cities and promoters who see what great benefit WTA benefits CSN bring to their communities and help them showcase their cities as part of a global tour.

Daniel Metcalfe, Tennis Australia’s Asia Pacific Manager.

1. How would you assess the impact of Li Na's back-to-back final berth and the potential final victory on promoting both the game and Australian Open in the Asia-Pacific region?

Li Na has had a significant impact upon the growth of tennis in the region. Her performances have inspired Asian players to realize that they can aim to win Grand Slams and to compete against the very best in the world. From our perspective, we are very proud that she has reached our Final three times as we take our position as the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific very seriously and are very committed to helping the development of the sport in the region. The most effective way to develop a sport is to have role models to aspire to and a strong development programme in place to allow people to play the sport.

2. What makes Li a so popular figure in Melbourne as she consistently receives warm ovation and support from the crowd? Li Na’s personality shines through every time she takes to the court. Australian Open fans are very knowledgeable about the sport and they recognize those talented players who truly love the game and give their all each time they play. When she plays, you can see the love she has for the game and the enjoyment that she takes from the tournament. She is also open and honest in all of her media dealings and interviews, which fans really appreciate. Finally, she has a great sense of humour and an ever-present smile that makes people want to support her. She truly transcends the sport and appeals to fans across the world.

3. How would you rate her contribution to boost the tournament and relevant business in Melbourne commercially? There is no question that Li Na’s presence and continued success helps to drive interest in the tournament from the Chinese market. Each year the percentage of international visitors increase (2013 grew to 17%, up from 15% in 2012) and we see more Chinese visitors coming to Australia.

Jon Wertheim, executive editor and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated It will be good for her legacies. If she wins it, she will probably be a hall of fame tennis player, I don't think there is one yet from China.

Mark Dreyer, former AP and ESPN reporter who now runs online column China Sports Insider

When all the sponsors rushed to sign with Li Na following her French Open win in 2011, they would never have dreamed that, nearly three years later, she would be playing at an even higher level, having reached a career high ranking of number 3 in the world just a few months ago. With Li turning 32 next month, though, age is not on her side.

But Li is just getting better and better. At some point, of course, she will have to retire - and has already hinted she will likely not play at the 2016 Rio Olympics - but on this form she should play for as long as possible. When those three-year sponsorship contracts expire later this year, it will be very interesting to see who re-signs and for how much. But the returns on their investments has been huge.

As for this game itself, having lost two Australian Open finals, she really needs to win to maintain her momentum and status in the eyes of the wider Chinese public, otherwise casual sports fans who are used to seeing Chinese dominate in other sports, might not appreciate her achievements in simply reaching those finals. She has a good chance though, and for the first time in an Australian Open final, Li will start the match as the favorite.

Her move to "break free" from the state system several years ago was a bold one at the time, but it's become the norm now in Chinese tennis. Zhang Shuai, one of China's most promising young players, went out on her own towards the end of last year and almost immediately embarked on a dream run that saw her climb to just outside the world's top 50. That will only inspire more players to do the same once they have reached a certain level.

Li's influence has been felt in other sports, too. Sun Yang, for example, has clashed with swimming officials over engaging in too many commercial activities, but as one of the few athletes in China to rival Li Na's fame, he knows only too well that Li Na and her team can make their own financial decisions, whereas he must still hand over the majority of his earnings. Don't be surprised to see Sun Yang "break free" at some point - there would be fierce opposition from swimming officials, but he'd love to control his own affairs if given the chance.

Martina Hingis, Swiss tennis legend and five-time Grand Slam winner

Li Na is a player that I always enjoy playing against. Over the last four or five years, she’s really improved. She got more solid. She is always a great player in the top 10 but her mental part I think that’s always the biggest weakness. But she’s improved so much on that since working with Carlos. Like the red wine, got better with the age.

Zhang Ze, Chinese professional male tennis player

(What Li Na has done)is definitely a motivation for us. We’ve been following the matches of Li Na and Zheng Jie after returning home. Hope the Chinese men’s tennis will also improve and rise to a new level in two years.

Wu Di, Chinese professional male tennis player

Li Na is in the Final. We are confident of her. She is such a good example. I wish we can bring our best game in the Davis Cup and not let fans down.

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