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China Open delivers home court disappointment

10-11-2011 09:08 BJT

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Pressured Li Na opts to look forward after disappointing defeat

BEIJING, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu stunned world number five Li Na 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday in the first round of the China Open, the last of the season's four Premier Mandatory events.

It's just like deja vu when the French Open champion was knocked out by another Romanian unknown player Simona Halep in the first round of the U.S.Open a month ago.

Niculescu, a player ranked beyond top 50 like her teenage compatriot Halep, was doing even harder to the troubled Li, especially in the second set which proved a torture for the crowd standing in the cold and Li herself.

The classic hard hitter was horribly out-of-form and her game was beat to pieces with comitting surprisingly grave mistakes and looking like she never wanted to win.

In the most humiliating way of losing a match, Li dropped the set at love in face of her 15,000 supporters packed in the newly built National Tennis Stadium.

"Right now I just lose all the confidence. On the court I don't know what I can do. I was feeling that winning even one point is tough for me," said a disappointed Li, "if the player has no confidence, naturally you will lose the match."

Li must say Thank Goodness when the unforgettable sesaon finally came to an end, a season she described as a roller coster ride.

The 29-year-old made history when she became the first Chinese and Asian winner of a Grand Slam singles title at the French Open in June. Since that triumph, Li has become a heroine in the country. Li was busy receiving awards, attending ceremonies of her sponsors, which limited her training time and had her working schedule torn apart.

Li seemed unprepared for the great honor and the concomitant pressure, begging many times that her demanding nation and people lift the burden of expectation off her shoulders.

The nightmare started to strike Li when she lost in the second round at the Wimbledon and then the U.S. Open heartbreaking loss hit her worse and this time around came the stunning home court early exit. After the China Open loss, she did not even think about making the yearend WTA World Championships final to be held in Istanbul, although she still gets a chance to make it.

"I think it's end of the season, so it's long break for me, like not only for the body, but also for the mind. I think that was more important. So hopefully I can stand up again and prepare for next year."

But from where? Li, the nicknamed Chinese No. 1 Sister, seemed to drop her fighting spirit with the confidence. She might deny her losing game at the press conference but her sloppy play would tell on court. Niculescu only needed 20 minutes orso to dispatch the Grand Slam winner in the second set, with the latter scoring just 9 points in the set. It's not the usual way that a champion lost the match.

Seriously, from where? Li herself wouldn't know because she started to look for excuse, trying to blame it on pressure, a subject she has talked about for months.

"Now I was feeling even tougher than before winning the Grand Slam because all the opponents see you differently. If they are against you, they feel nothing to lose."

"Like before I was playing against a Grand Slam winner, I would think about, okay, no pressure on me. Right know it's all the way turned around."

Having come into the tournament as a Grand Slam winner for first time, Li has been given much expectations of becoming the first Chinese to lift trophy on home soil in the eighth year of the tournament.

"In China, it's special. The China Open is the biggest tournament in China, of course I want to do well so more pressure is coming to me. It's not only pressure I gave to myself, it's form outside."

Li added that confidence must built on victories, but winning more matches she needs someone to turn to. Now, all Li has got is herself.

For Li, the priority must be given to the coaching problem as she broke up with her Danish coach Michael Mortenson, who helped her bring the French Open honor. She rehired her husband coach Jiang Shan again, but obviously it did no good to her game.

"I tried to ask the coach, I know he speaks exactly what's right, but I couldn't do it."

"Anyway the match is over, so I have to look forward. It's not easy for me, but if I want to do well in the whole career I have to do it," Li added.


WTA boss: bad luck for China Open to miss big names

BEIJING, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Being the last of the season's four Premier Mandatory events, the WTA event of China Open should have being a star-studded gala. But after a series of withdraws and early exits of big names, the 2011 version of China Open had to face more and more empty seats.

"In this year's China Open, we have eight from the top ten athletes and 45 from the top 50. That is what a mandatory tournament delivers on average," said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairwoman and CEO, on Wednesday.

"There is no doubt that we were all disappointed to miss players like Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Serena and Venus (Williams). It is really a bad luck for China Open."

"Maria has a very severe sprain in Tokyo on last Thursday night, just on the eve of coming to the China Open.

And all of those four athletes have reasons outside of their control that make them unable to play here. Hopefully, we have better fortune next year," Allaster added.

Russian star Maria Sharapova withdrawn from China Open because of the ankle injury she sustained at the Pan Pacific Open last week. And like Sharapova, Clijsters and the Williams sisters, all with a vast fan base in China, had to pull out of the 4.5 million US dollars tournament due to injuries or illness.

Apart from the bad luck, the Canadian who was recently named by Forbes magazine as one of the "most powerful women in sports", also admitted that a busy schedule had led to the sluggish performance of big names in China Open.

"We spent five years restructuring our calendar. We used to have 26 top events, now we only have 20. We have seven to eight weeks off the season, we also have mid season breaks. Even though we have made some improvements, it was a long season. Without denial, its long," said Allaster. "I think at this time of the year, the athletes have played a lot of matches. We were seeing stresses on the athletes."

Reigning U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur went down to the 27th ranked Maria Kirilenko 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 after two hours' toil on Tuesday. The Aussie joined two other reigning Grand Slam winners Li Na (French Open) and Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic (Wimbledon) in the stars' early exit, which are definitely disasters for the box office.

The local favorite Li Na turned out to be the biggest seed casualty in the opening round, slumping to a 6-4, 6-0 defeat to the unknown Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu last Sunday.

"I think it has been an incredible season for Li. Two Grand Slam finals, one grand slam win, the first Asia-Pacific Grand Slam champion, the first Chinese Grand Slam champion. She has a lot to deal with both on the court and off the court," Allaster said.

"I remember when Li was playing the Australian open final, that was the biggest moment. To go back-to-back Grand Slam finals on two different surfaces is a big accomplishment. And for her to win in French Open, I think it was a good testimony for her over-all talent."

"But after all, she is a human being. It has been a long season, with lots of emotions. She should be looking forward to and prepare for the Championships in Istanbul, and then take a break. She needs a break and everyone needs a break, it is a long season," Allaster added.


Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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