Na at Pacific Life Open
By: Philip Graves
Date: March 20, 2006, 3:53pm
She made a sound start with a comfortable 6-1 6-3 win over former Top-40 star Anne Kremer of Luxembourg
Then defeated Czech World No. 39 Iveta Benesova by the surprisingly one-sided scoreline of 6-1 6-0 in Round Two, and appeared to be coasting to a fairly comfortable victory at 6-2 5-1 up against Vania King in Round Three before the spirited American wildcard won three successive games, forcing Li Na to close out the closely-tied second set 6-4, having lost her own serve twice during the set. In the fourth round, she played Russian superstar and World No. 8 Elena Dementieva for the first time; and though the first set was fairly evenly contested, Li Na struggled to hold her own service throughout the match, being broken five times while breaking Dementieva's serve just twice, and was ultimately defeated 6-3 6-2, although overall she won 50 points against the Russian's 63. Still, she earned 45 ranking points from the tournament; and with none to defend from the previous March, this should assure her of a rise of about ten places back into the World's Top 60, with the possibility of further inroads to be made at Miami next week if the draw allows it.
Na Li Comes Up Short
By: Jamie RS
Date: March 27, 2006, 2:47am
She gave it a valliant effort! Na Li played against the red hot Maria Sharapova under the lights at the Nasdaq-100 Open tonight, and came up just short in the second set. After dropping the first set 6-2, she lead 4-1 in the second, before dropping the next five games and the match.
None the less it was a good result from Na. She's playing really well against some of the top players this year, she is just coming up a bit short in the clutch. Hopefully she can bring up mental game for the rest of the year, and really start stepping up her game against the top players.
Na Li did not enter doubles, so her tournament in Miami is done. I don't expect Na to play again until their Fed Cup Tie against Indonesia. It is rumored that Na and Shuai Peng will play singles and Jie Zheng and Zi Yan will play doubles. I wish Na the best of luck in that match, and hopefully she'll get her game going for the clay season.
Li Na at Miami
By: Philip Graves
Date: March 30, 2006, 2:05am
'Sharapova Showdown: the Sequel' might be an appropriate headline summarising Li Na's experience of the Nasdaq-100 Open at Miami 2006.
The resurgent Chinese No. 1, back up to World No. 60 having again proven her capability of great results against higher-ranked players in her solid recent performances at Doha and Indian Wells, was faced at the outset of the draw with the unwelcome prospect of a repeat meeting with Maria Sharapova in Round Two.
And so (as fellow Li Na team-blogger Jamie rightly pointed out in his tournament preview: I would have put it similarly myself), after a brief respite, Miami marked a return to the bad luck with draws that has plagued Li Na since the start of 2006.
At least her comfortable first round draw against Akiko Morigami (6-1 6-2 to Li Na) did allow her to notch up another nineteen ranking points, with none to defend from the previous March when she was injured. So the seemingly inevitable second-round loss to the Russian No. 1 was not a disaster so much as a setback for her. But still it was a disappointment to all those in the Li Na camp and wider fanbase who must have realised that, had the draw been more open, she would have had an excellent shot at another fourth round finish, as her more fortunate compatriot Zheng Jie proved in reaching the quarter-finals.
Yet every harsh draw brings with it a positive face in the form of the experience that comes from another head-to-head encounter with one of the world's most successful players on the tour. Li Na has lost in each of her last three successive tournaments to Top-10 stars, all of them (coincidentally) Russians. She was playing against Elena Dementieva for the first time at Indian Wells, and very much finding her way; yet at Doha she played Nadia Petrova for the third time and greatly improved on her previous results against her despite ultimately losing the match, while here at Miami she played Sharapova for the second time, and managed to win three times the number of games that she achieved in their previous encounter, despite panning out as the match loser by a decisive-seeming margin of 2-6 4-6.
The improvement registered by Li Na in this tournament over her thrashing by the current Russian No. 1 at last year's Australian Open is not to be dismissed out-of-hand. Every time she faces the top players, Li Na will gain valuable experience and added confidence for the next occasion. Eventually, in some cases at least, this will be enough to tip the balance in her favour, as she proved in her recent routing of Daniela Hantuchova at Doha.
Among the most important qualities for Li Na to retain as she persists through these trying draws are the will to persevere, and the confidence and self-belief to know that, at her most focussed and alert, she is a match for any of the top players on the tour.
She has been performing wonderfully well, and her talent is all there. But to make the breakthrough that we all know she is theoretically capable of making into the World's Top 30 at the least, and very possibly the ultra-competitive Top 20, she also needs consistency, cultivated inner emotional stability on court, and courage tempered by a degree of moderation when it comes to exercising her riskier strokes. Her winners are fantastic, and her play is a joy to watch, but the top players may often beat her just by making slightly fewer errors thanks to lower risk-taking, and by subtly intimidating her with their reputations and will to prevail. Improvements in these areas may be valuable keys to the long-awaited breakthrough.
China’s gradual emergence in world tennis, in particular women’s tennis, has been a long march. With each step this huge nation has been gaining more and more attention. Since tennis became a full medal sport in the Olympic Games it has been given a prominent place among all sports in China.
But while tennis by its nature is an individual sport, and there is plenty of recognition for individual success, it is the team events that garner the greater bulk of attention. For the professional tennis players of China, winning tournaments and Grand Slams is fantastic but it’s their success in the team competitions by which they and others measure themselves.
The Olympics, Asian Games, China Games and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas are the four most important events for the Chinese tennis players. So the fact that the team has won through to the World Group I Play-offs carries a lot of significance.
In China, Fed Cup is king
“In China, Fed Cup is king, it is like the Asian Games and Olympics,” said Na Li, who scored the point that gave China its unassailable lead over Indonesia in Jakarta in the first round of World Group II.
“It is so exciting because for China it is the first time in the World Group. I have played here in Indonesia and I won two points and it is so exciting for us.
“Playing for my country is more important for China players than playing for yourself. If I play a WTA tournament and lose, I think ‘okay I play bad, but there is the next tournament’, but if I play Fed Cup and lose this point I think I have done wrong.
“Now in China, tennis is much better than before. In 2004 we won the Olympic Games and this year we won the Australian Open doubles, so I think it is getting better in China and Fed Cup is very, very important.”
May 13, 1:36 AM, Saturday, BERLIN (AFP) - Li Na scored one of the finest wins ever by a Chinese tennis player when she saved three match points to bring down world number nine Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in the German Open quarter-finals.
Li's sensational 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1) win was achieved from love-forty down at 5-6 in the second set and from 2-5 down in the final set, carrying her to the first Tier One tournament semi-final of her career.
It was a long tough, battle and all the more surprising for following a tournament, the Estoril Open, in which she had to retire in the final.
Li had no stamina problems on this occasion, and also found that her double-handed backhand was well suited to containing and counter-attacking against her left-handed opponent's cross-court forehand.
She also concentrated well and never allowed herself to get down when she had long leads to make up. She was equally resilient to recover from treatment to a big toe when a nail came off.
Asked how she had achieved such an upset, the 24-year-old from Wuhan in Hubai province, said: "I don't know."
But after agreeing that it was the best win of her career against an opponent who had won both of their previous two meetings, she said: "This time I had a good philosophy - more positive and more calm."
Her cramps in Estoril had partly been caused because she had been nervous, she said, but this time she was nervous only for the first three games.
On the three match points she had no nerves, adding that "I didn't think about anything on those points. I just concentrated on my serve."
Despite this, her success owed something to Schnyder's apparently casual attitude and increasingly mistake-prone game.
Schnyder was hardly in contention in a tie-break which she lost 7-2, and then appeared to move freely to a long final set lead, discomforting Li with mixtures of loopy high bouncing balls and harder hits.
But when she went off the boil, she never blew hot again, while Li became more focussed in her cocoon of concentration. Schnyder collapsed completely in the final tie-break, losing it 7-1, serving a double fault to go match point down and immedialtely losing it when she put a limp return of serve wide.
It was only a matter of time before China, one of the world's most booming tennis nations, would have one of its players crack the Top 30 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Singles Rankings. After some stellar results during the clay court season and a run to the third round at Birmingham, Li Na became the latest to raise the bar for her home country, reaching No.30 on this week's rankings.
Between May and August of 2005, Li held the national record for highest singles ranking, having risen to No.35 on May 2 (passing the previous high of No.36 set by Li Fang in 1998) and then to No.33 on May 9. But she was passed late in the summer hardcourt season by compatriot Peng Shuai (who reached No.31), and in early spring of this season, Li bottomed out at No.71.
But after a spectacular last few months that has seen her reach her third career final (at Estoril), her first career Tier I semifinal (at Berlin) and notch her career-first Top 20 victories (over world No.15 Daniela Hantuchova at Doha and No.9 Patty Schnyder at Berlin), she has seen her ranking skyrocket back up to No.30.
"Last year I had my highest ranking at No.33, but I had an ankle injury that kept me out for two months," stated the 24-year-old. "If it weren't for my injury then, I may have been in the Top 30 earlier, but it's better late than never."
This isn't the first Chinese milestone Li has been responsible for. In October of 2004, she became the first Tour singles titlist from her country, qualifying for and then capturing the new Tier III event in Guangzhou.
There have been numerous breakthroughs for China over the last few years. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Li Ting and Sun Tiantian became the first ever Chinese tennis medalists, winning gold in women's doubles. Last summer, Peng became the first Chinese woman to reach the semifinals at a Tier I event (at San Diego). At the Australian Open earlier this year, Zheng Jie and Yan Zi brought home China's first Grand Slam title in women's doubles...
"It's really great because now the Chinese girls are getting much better," added Li, one of six Chinese women in the singles Top 100, also one of six in the doubles Top 100. "It definitely helps make tennis more popular in China and hopefully more people will follow us."
Rising Chinese star Na Li pulled off a shock in the ladies' singles when she ousted fifth seed and former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a three-set battle.
Li, the highest ranked of the three Chinese women who have made Wimbledon history by reaching the third round stage this year, came from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
After the first set went the Russian's way -thanks largely to her superior power - Li virtually halved her unforced errors and began to time her shots much better than her opponent.
Suddenly, it was Kuznetsova who was struggling to get to Li’s testing cross court ground strokes and the Chinese woman, who is actually four years older than her opponent despite her lesser experience, maintained a simple yet highly effective game plan to outfox the Russian, hitting the corners of the court and serving solidly to level the match.
The longer the match went on, Kuznetsova's serving became more reckless and her ground strokes more impatient, as Li increasingly moved her opponent around the court, disrupting her balance.
Occasionally Li would mix things up by pressurising the Russian's backhand, cleverly sending the ball deep into the worn patches of turf emerging along the baseline and forcing more and more errors from the 20-year-old. With her solid serve supporting a smart baseline strategy she continued to dominate the match and went ahead again early in the third.
Kuznetsova showed signs of a late comeback but her body language in between points and her sluggish movement during play suggested that she did not have the mental strength to fight back.
At 4-3, Li took Kuznetsova’s service game with ease and served out for the match to seal a famous victory for her and for Chinese tennis. :devil:
Li Na sinks fifth seed Kuznetsova
Friday, June 30, 2006; Posted: 2:11 p.m. EDT (18:11 GMT)
LONDON, England -- Li Na has become the first Chinese player in Wimbledon history to reach the singles fourth round when she upset Russian fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6 6-2 6-3.
The 24-year-old produced a superb recovery against the French Open runner-up after losing the first set, smashing forehand winners at will on Court Three.
Kuznetsova's defeat, confirmed when the 2004 U.S. Open champion netted a backhand service return on Li's first match point, made her the highest seed to exit the women's singles so far.
"When I was in the locker room afterwards I still couldn't quite believe it," said Li, who was beaten by Kuznetsova in the third round at Roland Garros this year.
"Even in the two matches that I lost to her I played well but today I think after losing the first set I managed to come up with a different strategy."
Li was one of a record three Chinese women to have reached the Wimbledon third round this year.
No Chinese player has been beyond the fourth round of a grand slam singles event. Zheng Jie reached the French Open fourth round in 2004.
Meanwhile, French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne sailed into the fourth round but said that achieving a grand slam double within a month, was one of the toughest challenges in tennis.
Wimbledon is the only jewel missing in Henin-Hardenne's grand slam crown and in a wide open field, this could be her year.
She has dropped just nine games so far in her almost effortless progress through the draw and on Friday she crisply despatched Russian teenager Anna Chakvetadze 6-2 6-3.
In the first set, a ball girl fainted in the baking midday sun. Chakvetadze wilted too, losing her serve twice.
Henin-Hardenne dropped her serve once in the second set but rarely looked challenged and ended the contest with a sharp backhand volley.
Wimbledon conjures mixed emotions for the Belgian number three seed. In 2001, the grass tournament was her first grand slam final. Last year she got knocked out in the first round.
The difference this year is that she played and won the Eastbourne warm-up tournament on grass -- and it shows.
"It's tough to come from clay to grass in just a week and I was very happy I could play in Eastbourne," she said.
"Physically and mentally, two grand slams in a month, it's difficult," she said. "It's tough to live this kind of pressure again two weeks later."
Mountain to climb
But she still has a mountain to climb as all the top seeds at Wimbledon have had an easy passage through the early rounds.
"It means that all the top players have a lot of motivation and keep their energy in the first week," she said.
Henin-Hardenne, winner of five grand slams in Australia, France and the U.S., adores the tradition surrounding Wimbledon. "I love to come here... It's been my first grand slam final ever so that means a lot of things for me here."
Martina Hingis's Wimbledon comeback stalled in the third round on Friday when she was outclassed by Japan's Ai Sugiyama 7-5 3-6 6-4.
The 1997 champion and 12th seed, playing at the grasscourt grand slam for the first time since 2001, had lost just seven games coming into the match.
Sugiyama proved to be a more stubborn opponent, taking the first set and storming back from 3-0 down in the decider to clinch victory when Hingis put a backhand wide.
She will next meet French qualifier Severine Bremond for a place in the quarterfinals.
N. Vaidisova Interview - Day 7
Monday, 3 July, 2006
Q. Can you just talk about what was going wrong out there.
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Uhm, you know, I think I struggled with my rhythm from the start. I felt I didn't move very well today, you know, felt a little tired, a little tight. But, you know, I have to give credit to her. On some points, on the important points, she, you know, played some great points, hit some great shots. You know, just what everybody saw.
Q. How much of this match was decided by your physical form?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: A little bit, but, you know, I definitely felt I struggled my movement today. Yesterday was I think a big part of it.
Q. Would it be fair to say you were coming to Wimbledon feeling maybe not a hundred percent fresh?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No, I felt a hundred percent fresh coming in here.
Q. You withdrew from Eastbourne due to fatigue. You felt probably drained after the French Open?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Yes, but not here. It's not my excuse. I felt a hundred percent ready to play here.
Q. Was there a specific injury today, or can you explain the feeling of tightness and tiredness?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No, no. In general, I just felt tired on the court, slow and everything. But it was not because of the injury or anything. It was just, you know, those are days when you just wake up and you feel tired and you have to overcome. And, unfortunately, I really didn't do that that well today.
Q. In a match like that when things sort of you get a feeling that things are starting to go wrong, was that almost before the match or during the first set?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No, early, you know, it was I think the whole time just felt, you know, not great on court, you know. Usually I will relax in the first set, hit better. But just it didn't happen. In general I didn't feel well on the court today.
Q. How would you sum up your experience at Wimbledon this year?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Better than last year. You know, first time also in the second week of Wimbledon, you know. I am definitely a little disappointed right now, but, you know, I think I still have a long career in front of me and still do so much better. Now I'll just take this experience and use it for my next tournament.
Q. Because of what happened in Paris and because of the attention around you, do you think people sometimes forget that you're still very young and you're still reasonably inexperienced at these kind of tournaments?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Of course people, you know, after French started expecting me to do so well again or better. And just my first, second, third round match, it was just assumed that I will win. It's definitely getting a little harder to do. But, you know, it's part of tennis, and I'll have to accept that.
Q. You are still 17 and playing professional tour. Do you feel yourself as a teenager or as a mature person? Do you have to watch your schedule and listen to your body? Is it still growing?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Yeah, I think health is definitely my number one priority. I don't play a crazy amount of tournaments. I definitely, you know, focus a lot on my scheduling, the way it's done and everything, because, you know, right now health is my priority because I still want to play, you know, years and years ahead. So to manage that, you have to have a right schedule.
Q. A lot of us are going back and forth from matches, we can't see all the matches as they're played. How much did you come to net the first couple sets? Did you come in much?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No, not quite much.
Q. Do you think that's a way for you to do better here in years to come perhaps?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: I'm sure I'll never be a, you know, volley kind of player coming in and stuff. That's just not the way I play. Of course I could maybe do a little more, maybe it would help me a little more. I probably should work on that a little bit, but I don't think it's going to change my game, you know, a lot.
Q. Is it special to play against Chinese player?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Is it what?
Q. Special to play against Chinese player?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: In what kind of way?
Q. Well, I don't know. Maybe they have a certain way to play. I don't know.
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: You know, they all play a similar game, you know. They are very, you know, fighting till the end all the time. They play, you know, very hard, try to hit the ball hard now. So there's, you know, couple good Chinese player coming up.
Q. You played several times against Chinese player this season and you won all the matches. This is your first loss, right, against Chinese player?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: How about that.
Q. Were you surprised by how she served, some of those down the stretch?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Yeah, I think in general she played very well today. On some points, key points, breakpoints, stuff like that, she definitely managed to play very well. I definitely know I could have played better. But anything but, you know, it's due to also the way she played today.
Q. Can you just talk specifically about her and what she did very well and how she was difficult to play.
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Oh, definitely she served very well. She moved better than I did, you know. She hits the ball very hard and, you know, most of the point, you know, the balls were falling in or hitting the lines and stuff. So, you know, tough to play that.
Q. Did the heat affect you today?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No, I'm used to the heat, you know. I live in Florida, you know. It's really hot. You know, I don't think heat ever affects me that much.
Q. Can I ask you what age you reached your current height?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Uhm, some time last year, end of last year probably.
Q. You stopped growing up?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: I think so, yeah. I think I'm done.
Q. Your pro career, before 15, there are many girls who do that, quite a few of them. What did you find as your biggest challenge turning from Juniors?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Just in the Juniors everything is so laid back, you know. Everybody's friends, everybody hangs out together and everything. It's just more fun. Now it's everybody, you know, focus, is very focused. It's much harder to just, you know, travel so much. You travel much more. You're by yourself a lot, you know, maybe with your coach or any but that was definitely a tough part for me.
Q. Did you get any advice from Martina Hingis? Did she invite you to train with her?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No. I know her. She's a very nice girl, you know, from Czech. She's very nice.
Q. Would you be at the same time in Bollettieri together with Maria and Tatiana? Would it be accurate to say you were training together?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: No.
Q. You were separate?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: Yes.
Q. Of all the Slams, looking sort of long term, which one do you think fits your game the best?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: I like the US Open the best, you know. I'm a hard court I think I like hard courts the best. But also I think I can, you know I proved I can do great and good on any surface, you know. Clay has not been my number one my priority, but I've done well there. I definitely would love, you know, the US Open.
Q. Why do you think of all of them, you got to the French semis first? Why did that work out the best for you?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: I felt good with my rhythm. Everything was good. I practiced very hard the last couple months before. And, you know, definitely knew I was playing better and better, and, you know, I think I can keep going.
Q. How much Daniel was involved in your development, your uncle? Did he help?
NICOLE VAIDISOVA: He's my uncle, but that's about it.
Q. Why did you think you won today, and why the sudden turnaround?
NA LI: There was no solution for any match before the match finished.
Q. Obviously, you've made history for China. Can you talk about how it feels.
NA LI: I'm proud of myself and I'm very proud for my country, as well. Especially for this is the first time I'm in this match and go that further. I'm very proud for that. Although, the first set I lost, but anyway, I'm proud of what I've got.
Q. What does this mean for Chinese tennis back home?
NA LI: It represents the women's tennis in China will getting better and better.
Q. Several Chinese players have trained with Alan Ma. Are you one of those players?
NA LI: (In English.) Never.
Q. Do we have it straightened out what her first name is?
NA LI: (In English.) Na.
Q. Why did you win today? What was the reason that you won today?
NA LI: There is no reason for winning a match.
Q. Was it because of your serve or because she fell apart, that you were concentrating better? There are reasons why you beat somebody.
NA LI: I don't know how to answer your question.
Q. Where do you train now? Do you train with other players?
NA LI: I'm belonging to the national team. Normally we will train together as a national team. If out of match, if we're not in match, we'll be training in Beijing or Guangzhou.
Q. If you had to say, when do you think a Chinese player will first win a Grand Slam?
NA LI: I don't know, but I think it takes time gradually step by step.
Q. What are your first memories of Wimbledon? How does your reality compare with what you expected?
NA LI: The first impression of Wimbledon gave to me was from the video I was watching for tennis players, playing the video. It was so distant to me at that time. It was so far away from me. The senior players, Chinese players, their best step was going to the third round. When I was in the ranking of 30 something, I thought it was not possible for me to have reached that far.
Q. What kind of influence do the Olympic Games in 2008 have on the rise of Chinese tennis players?
NA LI: I personally think this is a totally different match with Olympic Games.
Q. Even though he's American, has Michael Chang had any impact on your life as a tennis player?
NA LI: As a Chinese player, Michael Chang I think has influenced every single Chinese Asian people, especially he play that very, very well.
Q. Do you feel like you are a pioneer, that you are opening a new chapter in tennis history?
NA LI: I'm all right because before me, there are two doubles players, two pairs of doubles players, that got to a similar result.
Q. What aspect of your game are you happiest with, and what aspect do you feel needs the most improvement before the quarterfinals?
NA LI: The most satisfactory aspect for me is where I am now because it's out of my expectation I can go that far. For the rest of your question, I don't know.
Q. Which aspect are you happy with? Are you happy with your serve at the moment, or do you feel that needs improvement?
NA LI: I think my serve is better.
Q. Are you aware of how this is playing out in the newspapers and media back home? Would you have been more famous if you had stuck with badminton?
NA LI: Probably I would be a champion, a world champion, if I played badminton.
Q. About how it plays out in the papers back home?
NA LI: It's all those people from the Chinese media (pointing to the audience).
Q. A question about the Chinese men, why they're not doing as well as the women. I'm sure you've been asked that before, but just to let us know, if you wouldn't mind.
NA LI: I think more man in the world are playing tennis than woman in population. That's why I think they are in more strong competitions, situation, than woman. Plus our government will invest more capital investment on woman's playing.
Q. Why is that?
NA LI: Because woman has won the title of Olympic tennis and another title, very significant title.
Q. Have you ever met Michael Chang or had the opportunity to meet Michael Chang or do you have friends that have met him?
NA LI: No, none of them.
Q. Have you spoken to members of your family at home to get some idea of the reaction in China to your success?
NA LI: I haven't had contact with my family yet. But lots of my friends back in China have sent me the text messages to congratulate me.
Q. What do you like the most about London and what do you miss the most about China?
NA LI: I haven't seen London yet because I just come simply playing the game. But I've heard from friends that London is great. Regarding about China, the most thing I miss is my family.
Q. Do you ever dream of holding the Wimbledon trophy on the last day and winning this tournament?
NA LI: I've had this kind of dream, but I have to drop it because the more you expect, probably in return you have more disappointment. I have to back to the reality.
Q. Are you surprised there are no Americans in the quarterfinals, and we have the first Chinese? Any thoughts on that that you might have?
NA LI: I haven't thought that much. I'm just quite pleased at the stage where I am now.
Using her powerful serve to devastating effect, 27th seed Na Li made tennis history by becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, overcoming 10th seed Nicole Vaidisova in three tense sets.
Much of the match – played under intense heat on Court No. 3 – was made up of long baseline rallies, but the Chinese 24-year-old ultimately proved the more convincing of the two, coming from a set down to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
It was 17-year-old Vaidisova, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros earlier this month, who set the early pace though, making five aces in the first 30 minutes of the match, with Li initially struggling to cope with the pace and accuracy of Vaidisova’s potent serves.
In a dramatic eighth game of the first set, Vaidisova survived two break points to hold serve, as Li – the first Chinese player ever to be seeded at Wimbledon – struggled to make an impact early on. Vaidisova, who also reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in January, comfortably served out the set.
Opening the second set on serve, Li looked increasingly confident, and although she missed a straightforward smash, the Chinese right-hander battled hard, quickly breaking the Vaidisova serve. Soon Li was two breaks up at 4-0. Now in firm control, Li comfortably served out the remainder of the set with a cool mixture of searing groundstrokes and well directed serves.
In the third set, Li – who defeated fifth seed and former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a gruelling three set match in the previous round – visibly improved with every game, frequently finding the ability to counter Vaidisova’s serve effectively.
Although the Czech teenager remained defiant, Li was too strong for her, breaking late in the set to steal a famous victory. She faces No.2 seed Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals.
Q. How was the impression of the Centre Court of Wimbledon?
NA LI: I haven't been paying a great attention to that at all because I just went there and play the game.
Q. You were not a little bit impressed about the crowd and the atmosphere and stuff like that?
NA LI: Because I think if I put hundred percent concentration on playing probably I wouldn't have paid attention to that.
Q. You don't appear to get nervous on big points. You play very strong mentally. This whole experience has to be fairly new for you. Can you comment on how you're able to keep your focus and how you fight against nerves.
NA LI: Actually, I was very nervous. I think for those kind of level of match, for games, it will be for everyone will be very nervous. But no matter how nervous you are, you just have to focus on what you are doing.
Q. Did you expect to do this well, to get to the quarters?
NA LI: It's kind of expectation for a long time. But this time I kind of had played my level. Eventually I have got what my expectation to be done.
Q. Was it your dream to play on Centre Court when you were training as a youngster to come into tennis?
NA LI: I think for every tennis player, this is a dream. It's a common dream for everyone.
Q. Which aspects of your game do you think you have to improve to reach that level to be on the top like Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin Hardenne?
NA LI: I have to consult this aspect with my coach.
Q. Coming from a culture that's so different than this one, do you think that was an advantage or disadvantage to you? Did it help you here at the tournament, or did it work against you?
NA LI: I think it fine for me because we played almost every week to different locations around the world, so I think this is not major problem for me.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about equality in prize money, men and women. What is your take on that?
NA LI: As for me, I'm satisfied because I'm a female. I'm happy with the more money invest on me. I don't really mind what's going on for the male side.
Q. Where are you going to answer by yourself without a translator?
NA LI: It's not really good idea.
Q. A lot of people have been talking about the rise of female Chinese players. We've seen lots of young Russian players here take over in recent years. How many Chinese players do you think will perhaps be in the finals here in a year's time or in five years' time or even in ten years' time?
NA LI: It cannot be decide by me.
Q. Do you think that perhaps the Chinese can have as great an impact one day as the Russians have had?
NA LI: I think, yes, should be.
Q. You will travel whole year as a professional tennis player. What kind of difficulties you found in the tour, for example, language or food? You go to Chinese restaurant?
NA LI: I feel fine for those two aspects you mentioned. Like food, most of us, we can almost adjust ourself to eat our food.
And for the language, most of the foreigners, they know that as a Chinese, we don't speak their language. Most of them will be very understandable to use kind of body language to get us to we understand.
Q. Will you get a special bonus for getting to the Wimbledon quarterfinals?
NA LI: No. (In English) If you pay me, yes. If you can give me something, I can get (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: And you got your answer in English, too.
Q. Do you have any family who have come over to see you this week? Have they come over to see you or have you been in touch with them?
NA LI: It's quite rare for Chinese players to have family to be with them, you know, in a match.
Q. (Through translation) The journalists have been talking about your playing style, its beginning slowly. Like yesterday's match, you started slowly but caught up by the second set. You are a player that gets into the situation a bit slower than other players.
THE INTERPRETER: Her answer was she doesn't really thinks exactly agree with the media. She thinks she's moderate player.
Q. (Through translation.) You've been playing with those very high ranking players, especially the first ten players. Were you very nervous because you got a double fault in your service at the beginning of the match. Does that mean you were very, very nervous?
THE INTERPRETER: She said no, double fault means nervous. But what if I serve an ace, does that mean I was not nervous?
Her answer was she doesn't think she was nervous. But only she was nervous when before she was led to the playing ground.
Q. Which tennis player do you most admire, past or present?
NA LI: Agassi. Andre Agassi.
Q. Can you elaborate on why?
NA LI: I think so far he is the best player of that baseline player. Because she is a baseline player as well, that's why she think Andre Agassi is a good player, admire play.
Q. Will you play Fed Cup next week? If so, what is your expectation? What is your comment on the Fed Cup held in Beijing next week?
NA LI: Because I expect to win. Of course I expect I can win in that event because this is the first time for China, for Chinese national team, to be go that further. Plus, I have participate in this game, of course my expectation will be to winning.
However, Germany is not so big team, so we still have a lot of thing to do, a lot of work to do. There is some of player in the Germany team is before the 10th of the world ranking. But, however, in all, I can't just say anything before the match starts because nobody knows what will happening after match starts.
Q. You mentioned Andre Agassi. What about the women's tour, is there a player that can serve as a reference for you?
NA LI: (In English) Lindsay, Lindsay Davenport.
Q. (Through translation.) How many times have you been play with Clijsters before?
NA LI: This is the second time I'm playing with her.
Q. (Through translation.) During your second set when you played with Miss Clijsters, you were Love 2, 40 behind. At your second service, your service was on the line. But the side referee just called the ball out. At that point, Clijsters, she was very honest and she thought the ball was on line. What do you think about the personality of Miss Clijsters from that?
NA LI: Actually, I was talking with her already in the changing room. You know, as women, we always love to talk about things.
NA LI: Gossip, chatting, gossip, that kind of thing, yes.
Q. (Through translation.) So are you now a friend with Miss Clijsters?
NA LI: Not really because she's in a more higher level than us. We have different changing room, and normally higher players will not get along with us.
Q. You seem very self controlled and cool on a tennis court. Do you ever use bad language or throw a racquet or make a commotion?
NA LI: Regarding about the bad language, I probably will only curse myself, using the bad language. I did try to slap the matt, but I didn't try any more because if it's broken, I have to change another one to play. So I stop doing that.
Q. (Through translation.) Overall, your performance today was very well, you played very well. Did you expect to go further before the match started?
THE INTERPRETER: She said, Why you put me this very tough question?
Q. That's the answer?
NA LI: Of course I expect to win because this is a common expectation for every players.
LONDON (Reuters) -- Chinese No. 1 Li Na said Tuesday's Wimbledon quarte-final against Kim Clijsters on Centre Court had been a dream come true.
"I was very nervous. I think for these level of matches everyone would be nervous," the 24-year-old told reporters through a translator after her defeat.
"For every young player it's a dream come true to play on Centre Court."
Despite her nerves, Li produced a performance of power and skill to push world No. 2 Clijsters before losing 6-4 7-5.
"It's kind of been an expectation for a long time. But this time I played to my level," said Li, who led 5-2 in the second set and had a set point.
Li became the first Chinese singles player to break into the world's top 30 and was the first to be seeded in singles at a Grand Slam tournament when she got the 27th spot for Wimbledon.
She also made history by becoming the first Chinese player top reach the last eight of a major.
"Overall her game is very good," Clijsters said. "Her backhand sets up a lot of points for her and then with her forehand, she finishes it off. She moves really well, has a good serve. I had to play really good tennis and aggressive tennis to beat her.
"If she has more experience and gets to play more of these kind of big matches it's not going to take her long to one of these days make a breakthrough in the Grand Slams. She has top 10 potential."
14 Jul 2006 - International Tennis Centre, Beijing, China P.R. - Lei Lei
China strives for World Group
Back home after their Wimbledon success, the Chinese women’s tennis team is ready for the 2006 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie this weekend. China and Germany will meet at the Beijing International Tennis Centre with the winner moving to the World Group.
Play starts on Saturday with the draw having decided that China’s No. 1 singles player Na Liwill take on German’s No.2 singles player Kristina Barrois in the first match, with the rest of the draw as follows:
Na Li (CHN) v Kristina Barrois (GER)
Jie Zheng (CHN) v Kathrin Woerle (GER)
Na Li (CHN) v Kathrin Woerle (GER)
Jie Zheng (CHN) v Kristina Barrois (GER)
Jie Zheng/Zi Yan (CHN) v Tatiana Malek/ Jasmin Woehr (GER)
Although China was defeated by Germany in both previous meetings in 1982 and 1984, the home team has a clear advantage this time since all the Chinese singles players rank higher than their Germany opponents, and the host team also features player Jie Zheng and player Zi Yan the newly-crowned Wimbledon doubles champions.
Chinese are tired but inspired
The Chinese players are hoping to recover from a lengthy tour in Europe and are striving for the victory on home soil...
Although the Chinese team is cautious about predicting victory, it has an ideal opportunity to jump into the World Group this time.
Li became the first Chinese player to make the quarter-finals at the All-England Club and has again refreshed the ranking history, by reaching No. 22. Zheng’s singles ranking is No. 34 at present. Yan and Zheng added a first Wimbledon title following their trophy at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Germany without Groenefeld
For the German team, it will be a tough weekend as it is without its No. 1, the 16th-ranked Anna-Lena Groenefeld, who suffered an ankle injury in the doubles at Wimbledon.
“The draw is not really very exciting,” said Barbara Rittner, captain of the German team. “We didn’t care who starts as Kristina is ready to play as well as the Chinese team. It (the draw) doesn’t really matter. We hope to play good matches and see what happens.”
In the first match, German’s Barrois will play her first Fed Cup rubber, but has to face China’s top singles player Li,
“It’s the first time. That’s sure. But I’m very happy to play,” said Barrois, world No 129.
Following Barrois’s debut, Kathrin Woerle will make her Fed Cup debut against Zheng in the second singles rubber.
China started its bid for promotion to World Group with Na Li and Jie Zheng defeating Germany's Kristina Barrois and Kathrin Woerle respectively to lead 2-0 after the first day of the 2006 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off tie on Saturday in Beijing. China’s No 1 Li defeated Barrois 6-3, 6-4, while Zheng beat German No. 1 Woerle 6-4, 7-5.
Li wins opener
The start of the first rubber between Li and Barrois was very tight. The opening set went with serve, until Li broke for the first time in the sixth game to lead 4-2. Returning the ball with great depth and controlling the baseline well, Li won the first set easily 6-3, in 27 minutes.
Although ranked much lower than Li, Barrois, the world No. 129, caused Li, the world No. 22, more trouble in the second set.
There was an exchange of service breaks at the start of the second set, as Barrois’s control of the net proved effective. But Li regained her form quickly and kept pace with the German to 4-4.
Barrois saved one break point in the ninth game but Li’s quick movement and powerful hitting of the ball frustrated her. Li broke to lead 5-4. In the next game, Li took the match on her third match point.
“I have tried my best and I should thank the home fans,” Li said after winning the one hour, 14 minute match. “I think her serve is good and her strategy is good as well.”
Despite losing the match, Barrois, on her Fed Cup debut, was satisfied with her performance and praised her component’s technique.
“Her backhand is so fast and that’s not easy for me,” said Barrois. “I tried to play more on the forehand and I did that well. I think I have done my best.”
Tired Zheng struggle to win
Zheng extended China’s lead to 2-0 in the second rubber, but experienced a tough match. Her nerves caused her to drop serve in the first game and she trailed 2-4 after six games. Zheng steadied herself and broke back twice to seal the first set 6-4 in 42 minutes.
In a dramatic second set, Zheng broke in the fourth game and went on to lead 5-2, before Woerle broke back in the ninth game and held her own serve to go 5-5. Zheng would not let her opportunity go and broke again in the 12th game to wrap up the match and lift China to a 2-0 lead.
After the match, Zheng said she was not in her best form due to her recent tough schedule.
“In the first set, I was a little bit nervous since I was playing in front of my home fans,” said Zheng, the world No. 34. “During the match, my serve improved a lot. But since I just came back from eight tournaments in Europe and just started training on Wednesday, I was very tired in the second set.”
Woerle loses focus…and her chance
Woerle admitted that the slight change of her mindset cost her the first set.
“I started very well in the match. I played aggressive and then it was 4-2. But suddenly I started to think about how well everything was going,” said Woerle. “Her rank is around 30 but I’m at 154. So I thought, what was going on here. I started thinking and I didn’t play aggressive any more and then she started to play her game.”
“She did not miss until the middle of the second set and then it was 4-1 to her. Suddenly I focused again and stopped thinking, just to play my game. Then it went well again but in the end she was the better player. That’s why she No. 30 in the world. She takes her chances.”
China need just one more point to secure their World Group place in next years’ Fed Cup by BNP Paribas event. In Sunday’s singles Li will aim to secure a winning lead against Woerle, followed by Zheng to face Barrois. Zheng is also scheduled to team up with Zi Yan to meet Tatiana Malek/ Jasmin Woehr in the final doubles match.
China has secured its place in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for next year's competition after Chinese No. 1 singles player Na Li defeated German’s Kathrin Woerle 75 75 in the decisive third rubber of the 2006 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off tie in Sunday in Beijing.
The Chinese team took an unassailable 3-0 lead over Germany, while the visiting team has suffered relegation from the World Group to World Group II.
“Playing on home soil is much better than in other countries,” said Li, the world No. 22. “I felt there are so many supporters behind me.”
Li struggles to win
Despite failing to find the form she showed in the first rubber on Saturday, Li started aggressively by breaking Woerle in the second game and led 3-0 in only eight minutes. But Woerle, ranked No. 154, quickly recovered and her high quality serves caused Li much trouble, going on to level at 5-5. But Li left gave her opponent no chances in the following two games and broke in the 12th game to win the first set 75 in 38 minutes.
Woerle’s powerful and varied serves continued to work in the second set, and she went on to break Li in the fifth game en route to a 5-3 lead. However she missed a chance to win the set, losing two set points in the tenth game to be broken by her fighting opponent. Li then dominated the last two games to win the second set by the same 75 scoreline.
“I felt Woerle’s balls are a little bit strange, and I couldn’t play smoothly,” said Li. “Compared with yesterday, I did not pay 100 per cent attention.”
Woerle praised her opponent highly
Although losing the match, Woerle has caused much trouble to her opponent, whose world ranking is much higher than hers. After the match, Woerle praised Li highly.
“I had two set points in the second set, but I didn’t play badly at that point,” said the 22-year-old German. “But Li is so much more confident because she just played the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She can say: 'Who cares. I am at a higher level and I just need to play properly.’ And that's what she did. If she plays that well, I can’t do anything.”
“Bad luck for Germany”
Although Germany held a 2-0 head-to-head advantage against China before this match, the two-time champion now suffers relegation from the World Group. They had to compete without their top player Anna-Lena Groenefeld, the world No. 16, who missed the tie due to a foot injury.
“The last clash between China and Germany was in 1984. So you can’t really compare to that,” said Woerle. “It’s a fact that China is an upcoming country in all kinds of sports. They have improved a lot. As to the German team, before we had Steffi Graf and Anke Huber. They really are top players. Now we have Groenefeld, who is a top twenty player. But this time she was not here. She was injured. So, bad luck for us. It would be tough even with her against China.”
BEIJING, July 16 (Reuters) - Li Na blasted China to another milestone on their march to power status in women's tennis when she secured her country a place in the Fed Cup elite for the first time on Sunday.
The world number 22 found her best form just when she needed to in a 7-5 7-5 victory over Germany's Kathrin Woerle, which gave China an unassailable 3-0 lead in their World Group playoff at the Beijing International Tennis Centre.
China, who eventually took the tie by a 4-1 margin, will now play in the eight-team World Group in 2007, while twice Fed Cup champions Germany were relegated to the second tier of the women's international team competition.
The victory was another first in a breakthrough year in which Li became the first Chinese player to reach the singles quarter-finals at a grand slam, and Zheng Jie and Yan Zi secured the country's first major titles in the women's doubles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
"It's much easier playing at home," Li told reporters. "Today I could feel a great number of people behind me, supporting and encouraging me."
Germany were weakened by the absence of injured world number 16 Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
Both Woerle and Kristian Barrois, who lost to Li in the opening singles match on Saturday, were making their debuts for the country.
Brimming with confidence after reaching the last eight at Wimbledon this month, Li raced into a 3-0 lead in the first set before Woerle found her feet sufficiently to take advantage of her opponent's frequent mistakes and break back.
"The way the German girls played was a little strange to me," Li added. "I wasn't as concentrated as I was yesterday."
She bided her time, though, and won the set with another break in the 12th game when her opponent sent a forehand long.
Woerle showed great spirit and won another break in the fifth game of the second set but again Li saved her best for when it really mattered.
At two set points down, the 23-year-old found another gear and rode out of trouble on the back of some fierce forehands and equally unplayable backhands, securing China's historic progress with her 31st winner.
"It was my first time playing a top 30 player," Woerle said. "When I was serving for the second set, she gave me no chance at all on three of the points.
"I think she's going to be at the top for a while."
With the tie settled, Olympic doubles champion Sun Tiantian stood in for Zheng in the final singles match and lost 4-6 6-3 6-3 to Tatiana Malek.
Zheng and Yan beat Malek and Jasmin Woehr 6-3 6-4 in the final rubber.