Everything about China and it's culture

Everything about China and it's culture

Kim Clijsters wins Australian Open as Li Na cracks under pressure

Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters, triple U.S. Open champion, claimed her first-ever Australian Open singles title here on Saturday, beating China’s Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Third-seeded Clijsters, 27, rallied to upset ninth-seeded Li Na, who made history for China and Asia to enter a Grand Slam final, in two hours and 15 minutes.

Throughout the match, Li hit four double faults and 40 unforced errors, while Clijsters had three double faults and 26 unforced errors.

Clijsters burst into tears right after she sealed the victory for her fourth Grand Slam title.

Two weeks ago, Li defeated Clijsters in straight sets 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 in the final of Sydney International.

In Thursday’s semifinal, Li showed her courage by beating world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Clijsters, who boasts 40 career titles, played her first Grand Slam final a decade ago, and has won the U.S. Open three times on a surface similar to the new center court at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne of Australia.

Clijsters is projected to return to No. 2 in WTA singles rankings next week.

Despite Saturday’s loss, Li is supposed to return to Top 10 when the new WTA rankings are published on Monday.

China’s Li Na, the first Asian player to enter a Grand Slam final, has now been described as the "pioneer" and national sports hero on a par with NBA great Yao Ming and star hurdler Liu Xiang.

The 9th seed, 28, sent World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki home from semifinals of Australia Open, upsetting the Danish in three tough sets, and set up a historic final clash with three-time U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters on Saturday.

According to figures from China Marketing and Media Study, only about 12 million people play tennis regularly in the country, which has a population of about 1.3 billion in total.

In a nation where tennis has been an relatively unpopular sports compared to badminton and table tennis, China Daily newspaper placed the story on Friday’s front page headlined "Li’s Grand Chance", while Titan sports newspaper declared "Li Makes History".

"Epic win", said the Global Times of China, allocating nearly half of its front page to a photo of the Chinese No.1. In a commentary, the People’s Daily wrote, "Li Na sets a new benchmark for Chinese sports."

In chorus with the media’s focus on their arising sports hero, Chinese Tennis Association chief, Sun Jinfang hailed Li’s achievements, saying that she had helped secure her position as one of the country’s all-time sporting greats.

"There is always a pioneer pushing things forward in his or her time and Li is a sporting pioneer of her time," Sun told the China Daily on Thursday.

"I think she has an international standing similar to Yao Ming or Liu Xiang. She has been undervalued a little bit due to the relatively low profile of tennis in China."

Clijsters, who has been defeated by Li earlier this month in the final of Sydney International, shares similar views with Sun, regarding Li as one of the arising athlete to throw positive impacts on the growth of tennis in China.

"I’m sure that every country who’s never been in a position like that will support their player, athlete, in any sport tremendously," the Belgian told reporters in Melbourne. "I think it will open a lot of doors for tennis in that part of the world."

Meanwhile, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief Stacey Allaster said Li’s win would boost the popularity of the sport "exponentially" in China.

"Women’s tennis is already one of the fastest growing sports in China thanks to the celebrity status and success of Li Na and her compatriots," Allaster told China Daily, adding that for a number of years the WTA has been making a significant investment in China to capitalize on this interest at both the professional and grassroots level.

Li, meanwhile, said she has no idea how she will affect the tennis market back in her country, as she has not yet read the newspapers, but only to focus on her match.

Being one of the strongest-minded female players, Li in fact has gone through challenging days on her sporting career, receiving knee surgery for three times in between 2008 and 09.

"The very first time I was having my knee surgery, I told my husband that I will retire when if need another surgery in the future," Li told reporters in Melbourne.

"And when I receive my second knee surgery, I again promised to myself that I will retire from tennis if I need another surgery."

Apparently, the third knee surgery did nothing to knock out Li’s determinations, instead, it has strengthened her wills, bestowing extraordinary power to make history for her nation.

"People did not see how hard they are working behind the tennis court, they only see they win one Grand Slam, how much prize money they got," Li said.

The case is not for now. The nation with 1.3 billion people are throwing their supports to the pioneer, wishing her luck on Saturday’s match.

Sun said she is confident on Li’s performance in the final, as she always gave the nation miracles.

"I think she is capable of another miracle if she continues to challenge herself," Sun said.

The People’s Daily also rated her chances of a maiden Slam title, saying: "We expect her to go even farther, to fly even higher."

No matter how the Australian Open final ends, Li’s achievement will doubtless inspire more youngsters to follow in her foot steps.

It will make her even more popular in China, not the least because Chinese fans are seeing her rise, as yet it adds a strong evidence of China’s strength in the sporting world.

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