Li Na is a Chinese former professional tennis player who retired in September 2014. Winner of two Grand Slam singles titles, she has played a major role in making tennis a popular sport in China. She could have achieved a lot more in her career if not for her frequent injuries which forced her to retire prematurely. She exudes a tremendous amount of positive energy and her friendly on-court mannerisms and her hysterical, rib-tickling post-match interviews made her popular throughout the world. She started playing tennis at a very young age and entered the professional world on the basis of her strong backhands and swift serves. She shared a very deep and caring relationship with her now-deceased father, but the same cannot be said about her mother who always remained indifferent to Li's talents and achievements. But Li, time and again has mentioned that this void in her life has been filled by her husband, who at times becomes the target of her light-hearted ribbing. He not only coached her for some time, but also helped her in pre-match preparations, and supported her through the highs and lows of her career
Childhood & Early Life
Li Na was born on February 26, 1982 in Wuhan, Hubei, China, to Li Shengpeng and Li Yanping. Her father is a professional badminton player.
In 1988, she started playing badminton but changed to tennis after two years, on her coach Xia Xiyao's insistence. Her tennis instructors used negative reinforcement which severely affected the girl’s confidence.
Her beloved father died suddenly when Li was 14, leaving her heartbroken. Her mother’s remarriage shortly afterwards saddened the teenager further.
In 1997, she joined China's National Tennis Team. A year later she went to John Newcombe Academy in Texas to study tennis for 10 months, on a sponsorship from Nike.
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After turning professional in 1999, Li Na won three out of her four ITF Circuit singles tournaments and all seven ITF doubles tournaments. In 2000, she won 52 singles matches on the circuit, the highest by any player.
In 2004 she became the first Chinese player to win a WTA event after defeating Martina Sucha in the finals. With such an impressive performance, she found herself in the WTA top 100 for the first time on October 4, 2004.
She won her second WTA singles title at the 2008 Mondial Australian Women's Hard courts in Gold Coast, Australia.
She reached her fifth career tour final, at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships and lost to Marion Bartoli. By the end of 2009, her ranking was world No. 15.
At the 2010 Australian Open, she defeated Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams before losing to Serena Williams in the semi-final. This performance made her the first Chinese woman to break into the Top 10 of women's professional tennis.
At the 2010 Aegon Classic, Li Na was seeded first and went on to defeat Aravane Rezai in the semi-final and Maria Sharapova in the final, to win the tournament.
The year 2011 was a lucky one for her as quite eventful for her. She reached the finals of Australian Open but lost to Kim Clijsters in the final.
She won her first Grand Slam singles event at the French Open on June 4, 2011, when she defeated Francesca Schiavone in the final. Her ranking leaped to world No. 4.
After her disappointing performance at the 2012 London Olympics —where she crashed out in the first round—she appointed Carlos Rodríguez as her coach.
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She won her career's sixth WTA title by winning the 2012 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The year 2013 started with a bang and she won her career's seventh WTA title by winning the Shenzhen Open.
She reached the final of the 2013 Australian Open, but in the match she twisted her ankle, fell on her head and blacked out momentarily before losing to Victoria Azarenka.
She won her first Australian Open in 2014 by defeating Dominika Cibulková in the final. Later that year, she reached a new career high singles ranking of world No. 2.
Plagued by a knee injury, Li Na announced her retirement from the professional tennis on 19 September 2014. She was ranked world no. 6 at the time.
Awards & Achievements
By defeating Serena Williams in the 2008 Porsche Grand Prix tournament, she became only the second Chinese after Zheng Jie, to defeat a world No. 1 player.
In 2012, she was listed at No. 85 in the 'Forbes Celebrity List' and No. 5 and No. 8 in the 'Forbes China Celebrity 100’ list in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
In 2013, 'Time' magazine named her in its annual list of the '100 Most Influential People in the World'.
In 2014 she became the first Asian to win the Australian Open and also the fourth woman to win the title after being a match point down.
On April 15, 2015 Laureus World Sports presented her with the 'Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement' award.
Personal Life & Legacy
Li Na married Jiang Shan on January 27, 2006 and he later became her personal coach.
Li Na’s net worth is estimated to be $40 million