FINDING LI NA
Today, an estimated15million people play tennis regularly in China. That’sup from one million when the sport returned to the Olympics in 1988. There are more than 10events on the women's and men's tourseach year in the country, where tennisisthe third-most watched sport.
The Chinese tennis boom would neverhave happened without Li Na, the first Grand Slam singles champion from Asia. It’sbeen four years since she announced her retirement, and her success in professional tennis has so far been unmatched in her home country.
For many in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Sun Yat-sen Park is a symbol ofacarefree childhood.Li Na took up the sport here at age 7. The sandy courtis nowgone, but thememories of the extraordinary student have notfaded away for her coach.
XIA XIYAO：Li Na’s father, a former badminton player, had high hopes for her. She had practicedbadminton for two year at first. But I believed tennissuited her more. I was right. Over the years, alot of people have come to me learning how to play tennis. But not everyone can be like Li Na.
In the Hubei provincial tennis team, where a teenage Li Na was put into a relentless training programfor years, there are currently 48 trainees aged from 12 to 28. For them, Li Na is a legendary pioneer.
Li Na won her first majortitlewhen she beat Italy's Francesca Schiavone on the clay court of Roland Garros in 2011. She also won the 2014 Australian Open and rose to a career-high No. 2 in the world.
That year,however, sheretired from tennis on the eve of her home city’s first international top-level sports event the Wuhan Open, citing chronic knee injuries. The Wuhan Open replaced Tokyo as one of the WTA's Premier 5on a 15-yearlease.Li Na is the global ambassador for the Wuhan Open. With the tournament entering its fifth year, Shesat down to speak with us in Wuhan.
LI NA：I would like to say first Happy Birthday to Wuhan Open.Already five years. Every year it improved a lot. I know every tournament the first years are tough.By the way, I was talking to the athletes, they pretty like Wuhan. Good Food! I think this is the most important for the athletes.I think everything is going well.
FABRICECHOUQUET: So definitely, Li Na’s global influence has been adetermined factor in getting a WTA tournament here in Wuhan. And this has multiple positive effects.So that’s the best way to develop tennis in China.
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI:Ithink the Wuhan open is a great tournament. It’sLi Na’s hometown, she told me a lot about it before the first time that the tournament was here. And you know I am really sad that she is retired because I love to catch up with her and she was really a great friend of mine on the tour.
With Li Na now retired, people are beginning to seekChina's next tennis superstar.
LI NA：Honestly, I don’t want people to remember me. If it is really like that, it means that China’s tennis didn’t grow up or didn’t improve a lot. I’malready retired for four years, but every time I always have to answer, where is the next Li Na. I have to say everyone is different. No way to copy. You have to be yourself.
What have you been doing in the years since you retired?
LI NA：Take care of the family. Most of the time with my children. One girlandone boy. When you are an athlete,you can totally control yourself. But when you are with the children, especially when they don’t listen to what you say, it’s very tough.
People see you as a hero and an example. What do you have to say to them?
LI NA：I never think I am ahero. I only do one thing. Try to do my best. I love what I do. Everyone has their dream. So don’t be sad about yourself. Don’t give up. Just keep going and one day the dream will come true.