Li Na

China netizens turn on Li Na after defeat outburst

Chinese media and internet users question player's professionalism over her graceless retort about French Open loss to Mattek-Sands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 6:44am

Li Na was the object of widespread media and online criticism on the mainland yesterday, after a graceless response to her French Open defeat.

Li, who won the tournament in 2011 to seal her place as one of China's sporting stars, crashed out 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to unseeded American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a rain-interrupted second-round match.

At the post-match press conference, the sixth seed reacted tersely when asked if she had an explanation for her fans at home.

"Do I need to explain?" she riposted in Putonghua. "It's strange. I lost a game and that's it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them? Apologise to them?"

Her remarks sparked condemnation from mainland media and outrage from people who posted on Sina Weibo, even among her fans.

In a commentary, Xinhua sports journalist Zhang Rongfeng wrote: "Losing the game and her bad temper were direct triggers of her episode at the presser.

"But if we take a closer look, her 'unfriendliness' has a lot to do with her lack of professionalism.

"As a successful athlete, Li Na may be very professional with her training, game experience, PR team operation, and so on, but she is not with her attitude towards the media. She's impatient and not respectful enough to the media."

A user named Dibayin commented: "Li lost the game, which is normal - no one wins all the time. It's her insensitivity that is the problem. What I want to ask Li Na is, why did you think you could just go off at the presser?

"Did you think you were still in the rice fields in your hometown in Hubei province? Losing the game is OK, you can win it next time. What you really need to improve is your courtesy and behaviour."

Another user, Shenyu K, seemed to agree. "I am a fan of Li Na, but I really don't like this side of her - not her losing the game, but what she said afterwards.

"It doesn't matter so much that she lost the game as she acted like a bitch and took out her frustration on the media and her fans. It's not unprecedented, she has blamed her husband and her coach before."

Meanwhile, better known for her outrageous outfits, Mattek-Sands says she is finally letting her racquet do the talking.

Mattek-Sands' off-beat on-court costumes, including jackets adorned with tennis balls, leopard-print dresses and knee-length long socks, have earned her the title of the "Lady Gaga of tennis".

In the past, however, her game has often failed to hit the high notes.

"I haven't worn anything too crazy on court for a few years now," she said. "I feel like my racquet has been doing a lot of the talking."

The warpaint that used to adorn her face was also left on the shelf for Thursday's match. But, if her mood dictates, it might make a return. "Well, it's funny. The chair umpire asked me the other day if I was missing my make-up," she added. "My fashion kind of goes with my moods. I do spur-of-the-moment things."