Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tennis: I can cope with extra pressure, says Li

China's Li Na poses next to the Eiffel Tower during a photocall after winning the French Open tennis tournament. Li Na says she can cope with the pressure, as she aims to continue her year to remember at Wimbledon. -- PHOTO: AP

LONDON - FRENCH Open champion Li Na insists she can cope with the extra pressure of being Asia's first Grand Slam singles winner as the Chinese star aims to continue her year to remember at Wimbledon.

Li made history when she ended the long wait for an Asian champion in one of the four majors by defeating Italy's Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final earlier this month.

The 29-year-old's success is predicted to spark an explosion of interest in tennis in Asia after an estimated 116 million people in China tuned in to watch her beat Schiavone.

Li, who faces Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva in the Wimbledon first round, also reached the Australian Open final in January before losing to Kim Clijsters. For the first time in her career, she finds herself in the spotlight as fans back in China now expect her to deliver success on a regular basis.

But Li has no doubts she will be able to cope with the increased expectations. 'There is a little bit of pressure but I like it. That can improve you a lot,' she said. 'After Paris I stayed in Europe. I know if I go back to China people will be crazy. Right now I couldn't imagine if I go back what would happen. But now it is Wimbledon. If I don't do well here maybe they forget me already.'

Due to the demands of her playing schedule, Li has been unable to celebrate with her family in China and she revealed her mother may not appreciate just what a star she has become. 'She knows I won the tournament but I don't know if she knows how big the tournament is. I didn't ask her,' Li said. -- AFP

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