Li Na says media criticism nearly forced her to quit

China's top player pleads for fairness, saying some sections of the media would twist her words and portray her in a negative light

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 10:56pm

Disillusioned by negative reporting from her home media, Li Na nearly quit the game last year in the wake of her early French Open exit, the Chinese number one said at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Li, who won the 2011 French Open to become Asia's first grand slam singles winner, suffered the criticism after being bundled out in the second round at Roland Garros by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

China's trailblazer Li has long endured a sensitive relationship with mainland media, which has been quick to condemn as well as heap praise on their most successful player, but the critical reports that dogged Li in the lead-up to Wimbledon took their toll.

They make me very - they gave me a very tough time when I played the French Open, and it continued to Wimbledon
Li Na

"It was a very negative thing," Li said. "I could say something but [what] they would write down in the newspaper was totally wrong.

"They make me very - they gave me a very tough time when I played the French Open, and it continued to Wimbledon.

"It's not [all] the Chinese media. It's some of them.

"But someone, maybe they wanted to be more famous, you know, so that's why they always write down something I never said or another way round.

"But I was really happy [to] do well in Wimbledon, so that's why I continue until now. Otherwise I don't know where I am now."

Following the French Open, Li boarded a long-haul flight to her hometown Wuhan to see her mother and galvanise herself for Wimbledon, where she shrugged off her slump to reach her third quarter-final at the tournament.

Her first run to the US Open semi-finals ensued and Li finished off her best season since her breakthrough 2011.

Runner-up at Melbourne Park last year and in 2011, Li moved into the third round yesterday by fending off 16-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) under a blazing sun at Rod Laver Arena.

Hailing from Wuhan, known as one of the Yangtze river's "three furnaces" owing to its sweltering summers, Li was more ruffled by her occasionally misfiring forehand than the heat at Melbourne Park, where temperatures were nudging 40 degrees Celsius.

There was little Bencic could do to stop Li wrapping up the first set to love in just 22 minutes. But Bencic finally got off the mark on her service game in the second set. It drew huge cheers from the crowd and brought a big smile from the 16-year-old, who rose in confidence as she broke Li to be 2-1 ahead.

Li immediately broke back but the plucky Swiss broke Li again and should have held her next serve, but a forehand into the net saw the set locked at 4-4.

It went with serve to a tense tiebreak with Li drawing on her experience to survive.

"I think I was lucky, you know, because at least they put me in the first [session]. So I could finish the match before 1pm," she said.

"Yesterday, I was practising earlier to try to play little bit in the heat."

Li will play Czech 26th seed Lucie Safarova in the next round and a run to the second week of her favourite grand slam is likely to keep the headlines positive in China.

Li, nonetheless, pleaded for fair treatment.

"Please don't try to [portray me in a bad light again] because, right now, I really, how do you say it, I am trying to be a friend. But maybe not everyone thinks about that."

Reuters, Agence France-Presse