Li hoping coach continues partnership
Li Na, China’s first superstar tennis player, is unsure whether she will continue the coaching partnership which has triggered her surge towards the end of the this year season.
The 30-year-old would like to prolong her association with Carlos Rodriguez, the Belgian coach who famously guided Justine Henin to seven Grand Slam titles, but does not know whether he feels likewise.
“I really wish to work with him next year, but I have to wait and see what he answers,” said Li, who bowed out of the WTA Championships here on Friday with a bold performance in her defeat by world number one Victoria Azarenka.
This confirmed the improvement which Li, who was the first Chinese singles player to win a Grand Slam title when she won the French Open in Paris last year, has started to make since teaming up with Rodriguez in August.
She immediately won the Cincinatti title, beating two top six players and Venus Williams, and then went on to beat world number four Agnieszka Radwanska earlier this month in Beijing, where she reached the semi-finals.
That enabled Li to qualify for the end of season tournament, where a solid win over world number five Angelique Kerber suggested she has a lot left to give on the circuit.
Asked if she had discussed with Rodriguez about how to build on these successes, Li said: “No, not right now.
“Of course after I lost the match [to Azarenka] I was a little bit sad. So I was standing in the gym and he was coming to say it’s okay and I was pretty close against the number one in the world.
“And (he said) not just enjoy your life, enjoy your vacation. We will talk when you come back. I was, like, okay.
“It’s very tough, how do you say, to talk about the programme, or what we should do in the next step, when you have just finished a match. So I think we should talk when I’ve really cooled down.”
Despite her sadness, Li had not lost her notorious sense of humour. She was told that Kerber and her team had jumped into the swimming pool in the middle of the night, and asked if she might do something similar to celebrate the end of the season.
“You know my husband couldn’t swim, and I couldn’t help him if he jumped into the swimming pool,” she joked. “So I would not save his life, you know.”
Asked where she would take the vacation, she said that was a secret. And she had a similar response to questions about where her pre-season training would be in Beijing or Europe.
As for the future of the partnership with Rodriguez, that too remains a secret for the time being, but that’s not a secret she’s wishing to keep.