China’s two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na has officially announced her retirement from professional tennis at the age of 32 after struggling to overcome knee problems.
Li, who became the first and only Asian tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title in 2011 at the Roland Garros and also the first Australian Open champion from Asia, ended her career ranked No. 6 in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
“Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honour,” she wrote in a special letter to her fans. Having the unique opportunity to effectively bring more attention to the sport of tennis in China and all over Asia is something I will cherish forever. But in sport, just like in life, all great things must come to an end.
“After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100%, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again. The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100%.”
Following her triumph in Melbourne, where she became only the fourth woman in the championship’s history to come back from match point down to win the title in her straight sets win over Dominika Cibulkova, Li raised the bar for Asian players male or female) post-Qatar Open rising to world number two- the highest ever from the continent.
She was also runner-up at the 2013 Australian Open and 2013 WTA Tour Championships, a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and a semifinalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and 2013 US Open.
Landing in China to the news of miss Li Na retiring :( what a great player,hilarious girl and an… http://t.co/POjvAIlHqv
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) September 19, 2014
Only Li, yet, has won more than 12 successive matches this year, making her the WTA player with the best start to 2014, following her 13-match winning streak which ended in her narrow defeat by qualifier Petra Cetkovská in the third round in Doha.
Following a 21–3 start to the season- including triple wins over Slovakian Cibulkova- Li’s recurrent left knee injury resurfaced at the start of the 2014 clay season. She succumbed to eventual French Open champion Maria Sharapova in a tight three setter quarter-finals at the Madrid Open.
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) September 19, 2014
She recorded her earliest loss in a major tournament at the French Open this year, losing to French youngster Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round; similar fate as Swiss ATP player Stanislas Wawrinka’s- the pair’s demise marking the first time in the history of tennis that the reigning Grand Slam winners were ousted in the opening round of their next major.
Her dip in form continued at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, where she was eliminated in the third round by Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová before skipping the entire US Open series.
Li, who turned professional in 1999, is adjudged to have given the best trophy speech of all-time, after winning the Australian Open this year.
Born in Wuhan, China, she is ranked 14th among the highest-earning female tennis player of all time with USD$ 16,709,074 in career prize money.
“2014 has become one of the most significant years in my career and my life. This year was full of amazing highlights, which included winning my second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open and sharing the extraordinary experience with my country, my team, my husband and my fans. It was also a year filled with difficult moments, such as having to deal with the inevitable – making the decision to end my professional tennis career
“The amazing moment in Australia was filled with joy, happiness and extraordinary sense of accomplishment. The task of finally making a decision to hang up my racquet felt a lot more difficult than winning seven matches in a row in the Australian heat. It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be. Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family,” she noted.
She added: “On a personal side, I look forward to starting a new chapter of my life, hopefully having a family and reconnecting with those I did not have the luxury of spending a lot of time with while playing.”