Li Na aims high after record year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am

Li Na, the first Chinese player to reach the world's top 10, believes she still has plenty of room for improvement and has no plans for retirement.

The 28-year-old right-hander, who was in town yesterday for an exhibition match celebrating the South China Athletic Association's 100th anniversary, is confident of making progress in the new season.

'It has been a good year in terms of results as I was able to break into the world's top 10,' said Li, who currently ranks 11th in the world after reaching a career-high ninth in August. 'I will continue to play at the highest level as long as my body allows, and I can say both my form and conditioning are very good at the moment.

'The four grand slams are definitely my targets in the new season although we all know it will be very difficult. But I will work hard to play my best tennis so that I won't have any regrets when I quit the sport one day.'

By reaching the 2010 Australian Open semi-finals, Li became the first Chinese player to enter the top 10. She achieved another good run at Wimbledon when she defeated seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska to advance to the quarter-finals for the second time in her career. Although she lost to world number one and defending champion Serena Williams in two sets, the result pushed her back into the top 10 again.

Li, of Hubei province, partially attributed her success to the new system for tennis professionals on the mainland, whereby the players now work on their own and do not belong to the national team system like players in other sports such as badminton and table tennis.

'I have a small group working with me which includes my coach, a physiotherapist and my husband, and they decide what schedule works best for me,' she said.

Li has been called up by the national team for the Guangzhou Asian Games, but will only appear in the team event, even though this will probably be her last Asiad.

'It has been a long season on the tour and the national team want to give me more time for recovery and preparation for the new season,' said Li. 'Also the young players need more international exposure as they have to take up the baton.'