SPORTS: Chinese tennis ace Li Na, tenacity with a smile

Triumphant Li Na spills a few family secrets on way to final…

Li Na’s semi-final win at the Australian Open yesterday was not only the greatest victory in the history of Chinese women’s tennis, it was another chance for her to lampoon her mother and husband-coach before a footloose Melbourne crowd.

In the post-match TV interview on court, she admitted she was nervous. “I didn’t sleep. My husband was snoring. I woke up every hour,” she said, as her husband, Jiang Shan, laughed from the coach’s box.

Asked what got her through the gruelling two-hour, 40-minute come-from-behind 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over world No1 Caroline Wozniacki in the searing heat, she said, with comic timing: “Prize money.”

Li, 28, has repeatedly poked fun at her mother who lives in Wuhan . She raised her after her father died when she was 14, but is too nervous to watch her matches. “I ask her many times to `come with me, come with me’,” but she says: `No, no, I have my own life. I don’t want to come with you.'”

She explained the advantages of working with her childhood sweetheart and husband who is a former national player, as opposed to the state sport agency, which two years ago let her organise her own tours. “I can take the credit card and buy anything I want. But I can get nothing if I don’t win.”

When asked if she watches her next opponent’s matches, she quipped: “No, this is my husband’s job. I will just relax and watch TV.”

She said  she developed a comic touch “because I’m always travelling and meeting other people from other countries”. Her humour does not always translate in Chinese. “Sometimes I’m making a joke, but some Chinese they don’t understand. So I look at my husband, and he understands when I’m trying to be funny.”


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