Monday, August 19, 2019 | ePaper

Li Na's tennis journey to stretch from China to Hall of Fame

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AP, New York :
Li Na remembers first watching a tennis match on TV, drawn to the unforgettable style of one of the players.
Andre Agassi had long hair, an earring and wore denim shorts, and made an instant fan in China.
"Andre Agassi is my role model," Li said.
Li went on to become one herself.
The first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title, she will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend, celebrated not only for her skills on the court but for her contribution to the growth of the sport in her country."She's like an icon in China. She's a huge superstar," said Mike Silverman, the director of sport for New York's City Parks Foundation.
Li conducted a clinic with children from the organization on Thursday and her influence was obvious. Many of the young players were Asian, including one teenage boy Silverman thinks is good enough to get a college scholarship. They were probably too young to remember much of her career - she retired in 2014 because of knee problems - but her impact didn't end when her playing days did.
"There's no question that Li Na, when she was playing and even now, tennis in China has never been the same since she won the French Open," Silverman said. "It changed everything."
That was in 2011, when more than 116 million people in China watched the final. Li added a second major title in 2014 at the Australian Open after twice losing in its final, rose to No. 2 in the WTA rankings and earned more than 500 singles wins.

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