Li Na will play in a Grand Slam semifinal for the second time in her career, after defeating Germany’s Andrea Petkovic in the Australian Open quarterfinals yesterday.
It’s not the first time that a Chinese player has made it into a Grand Slam semi – that honor goes to Zheng Jie, who reached the Wimbledon semifinal in 2008, and then along with Li became the first two Chinese players to reach the semis in the same Grand Slam, at last year’s Australian Open. But this tournament’s final four offers the best shot yet for a Chinese player to reach the final, with weaker competition than they have faced in the past. Li’s next opponent, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, is currently the World No. 1, but has never won a Grand Slam. In fact, of the remaining players, only Kim Clijsters has. She holds three US Open titles, from 2005, 2009 and 2010.
By contrast, last year in Melbourne Zheng lost to Justine Henin, winner of seven Grand Slams. Serena Williams defeated Li and went on to win her 26th Grand Slam title. Li and Wozniacki play in the afternoon on Thursday, January 27.
Finally, while we’re on the subject of Li Na, I’d like to take a second to editorialize on what I find to be a horribly insensitive and borderline racist approach to this story by a British newspaper. The Guardian’s man in Melbourne, Kevin Mitchell teases us with the headline “Li Na hopes to make great leap forward against Caroline Wozniacki.”
The Great Leap Forward was the euphemistic propaganda name given to a Mao Zedong campaign that caused the death of millions of Chinese people – many due to starvation. Hardly something to bring up as we should be celebrating the great strides made by China’s female tennis players, strides often attributed to the Chinese tennis administration’s willingness to experiment with giving its athletes more freedom than is enjoyed by their peers in other sports.
After that, Mitchell brings us this lede:
“Li Na is not half a police siren but it might well be the skinniest collection of letters of any major figure in the history of sport. The 28-year-old player from Hubei province in the middle of China is two matches from expanding her profile beyond her fondest dreams in the final of the Australian Open.”
Seriously? This athlete starts off the 2011 season with a Grand Slam semifinal appearance, and you start off an article about her by making fun of her name for… being short and sounding foreign? If Li Na makes it to the next stage, hopefully Mitchell will dispense with the crude jokes, and resist the urge to call this “Tennis’s Cultural Revolution.”
Li Na image: Xinmin.com.cn
Tags: Li Na, tennis