Grand Slam champion. Second-best women’s player in the world.
Li Na, who carved out a stellar career on the WTA Tour, is set for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend, becoming the first player from Asia to be enshrined among the legends of the game.
Off the court, her impact—particularly in her home, China—cannot be denied as she’s rightly hailed as one of the nation’s greatest athletes. Here’s a look at some of her on-court accomplishments that have taken her to this point. (All photos from Getty Images)
A Series of Firsts
When Li captured the Guangzhou International title in 2004, it marked the first time a woman from China won a singles title. This came shortly after her return to the game, having stepped away for two years. Seeded at Wimbledon in 2006, she advanced to the quarterfinals—two more firsts for players from China. And in 2010, after advancing to the semifinals at the Australian Open, she made her Top-10 debut, further setting the pace for her compatriots.
Having shown that she knows what it takes to succeed in Australia the year prior, Li went a step further in 2011 by advancing to the final in Melbourne, where she lost to Kim Clijsters in three sets. As impressive as that run was, she surpassed that at her next major, the French Open. Having last played a clay-court final in 2006, Li took the title in Paris, defeating defending champion Francesca Schiavone for her first Grand Slam triumph.
A Global Success
Leading up to the 2012 season, Li won titles on different surfaces all around the world—except in the United States. She erased that mark during the summer hard-court season leading up to the US Open when she came out on top in Cincinnati, beating Venus Williams in the semifinals and Angelique Kerber in the final. This was also the first time Li won at the Premiere 5 level.
Three the Hard Way
In 2013, Li began the year with a title at home, winning the Shenzhen Open. Riding that momentum, she made her second run to the Australian Open final, her third major championship match in three years. After such a strong start to the year, Li closed out her Grand Slam season with her first semifinal at the US Open, then in the last major event of 2013—the WTA Championships—she advanced to the final, where Serena Williams stopped her. Those results took her to a year-end No-3 finish.
Magic in Melbourne
After two prior losses in the championship round at the Australian Open, Li finally broke through in 2014. Seeded fourth that year, she only dropped one set on her way to the final, where she faced a 20th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. After taking the first set in a tiebreak, Li dominated the second, winning her fourth 6-0 set of the tournament to clinch her second major singles title.
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