Sideglances
by SARAH GREENE
Sep 12, 2013 | 763 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The world is so full of a number of things, I think we should all be as happy as kings.”

THAT VERSE from a fairy tale popular in my childhood so many years ago still applies today, as I no doubt have mentioned.

Better still, communications are better and more available than ever. For decades the vast kingdom of China was hidden behind a “bamboo curtain,” but no more.

I have enjoyed following the pro career of China’s No. 1 woman tennis player, Li Na.

The family name is Li and the whole name is written as Li Na.

SHE WAS born in Wuhan, Hubei in 1982 and is 31.

Li Na has won more than $11million in her many tennis matches. playing right-handed with a two-handed backhand. Her current ranking, worldwide, is No. 6. She also has achieved an enviable record in doubles.

Whether these were mixed doubles my sources did not say, but I do find it interesting that the only sports that allow men and women to compete on an equal basis are tennis and perhaps golf.

Li Na’s father, Li Shengpeng , was a professional badminton player and later worked as a sales rep for a Wuhan based company. He died from a rare cardiovascular disease when Li Na was 14.

AT AGE SIX Li Na started playing badminton, following her father’s footsteps. Just before she turned eight, Li made the transition from badminton to tennis when she and her parents were convinced by coach Xia Xiyao of the Wuhan youth tennis club that this would be the right career move for her.

Li joined China’s National Tennis Team in 1997. In the following year, Li, sponsored by Nike, went to John Newcombe Academy in Texas to study tennis. She studied there for ten months and returned to China. Li turned professional in 1999 at age sixteen.

At the end of 2002, Li left the national tennis team to study part-time at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2009.

The Chinese media cited various reasons for this. Some reported that the relationship between her and her teammate, future husband. Jiang Shan, was opposed by the national team’s management, some reported that her coach Yu Liqiao, was too strict and demanding, while other reports claimed that her request for a personal coach did not go through.

HOWEVER, Li returned to the national team in 2004. Jiang Shan married Li on January 27, 2006 and became her personal coach. Li quit the national team as well as the state-run sports system in 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players. This change was called “Fly Alone” by Chinese media.

As a result Li had the freedom to pick her own coaching staff and she could keep more of her winnings. Only 8 to 12 percent of her winnings go to the government as opposed to 65 percent previously.

Li Na has a tattoo on her chest, and hid it for many years since tattoos are not widely accepted in China, especially on women.

Hidden tattoo or not, I predict much more will be heard from this talented athlete.

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