|Birth Day:||February 26, 1982|
|Birth Place:||Wuhan, China|
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Turning profession in 1999, she managed to win three of every four singles tournament that she entered.
Li Na was born on 26 February 1982 in Wuhan, Hubei. Her mother is Li Yanping (李豔萍); her father, Li Shengpeng (李盛鵬), was a professional badminton player and later worked as a sales rep for an Wuhan-based company. He died from a rare cardiovascular disease when Li was fourteen. Her mother didn't tell her that her father had died for many weeks, thinking it would affect her game.
At age six, Li followed her father's footsteps and started playing badminton, which honed her reflexes. Just before she turned eight, Li was persuaded to switch to tennis by coach Xia Xiyao of the Wuhan youth tennis club. Her instructors taught tennis through negative reinforcement, which affected Li's confidence in later years. Li joined China's National Tennis Team in 1997. The following year, Li, sponsored by Nike, went to John Newcombe Academy in Texas to study tennis. She studied there for ten months and returned to China. Growing up, her favourite tennis player was Andre Agassi. She turned professional in 1999 at the age of sixteen.
Li turned professional in 1999, and won three of the first four singles tournaments she entered on the ITF Circuit, two at Shenzhen and one at Westende, Belgium. She also won all of her first seven ITF doubles tournaments she entered.
In 2000, she won 52 singles matches on the ITF circuit, more than any other player, notching another eight tournament titles, including one at the $50k level, two at $25k, and a run of four $10k tournament wins in March and April.
Li was mostly absent from the tour in 2001. She won two further $25k ITF singles tournaments, defeating Roberta Vinci in the final at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Liu Nannan in the final at Guangzhou in July, but then played only one further match for the rest of the year, leading her ranking to fall to no. 303 by the year's close.
In 2002, she came through qualifying to win her first $75k singles tournament at Midland, USA in February, defeating Laura Granville, Tatiana Perebiynis, and Mashona Washington en route to the title, the 14th of her career. But she then played only one more match (a loss to Zuzana Ondrášková in the $50k event at Dinan, France that April), followed by a lengthy absence from the circuit for the next 25 months.
Li returned to the national team in 2004. Jiang Shan married Li on 27 January 2006, and became her personal coach. Li quit the national team as well as the state-run sports system in 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players. This change was called "Fly Solo" (单飞) by Chinese media. As a result, Li had the freedom to hire her own coaching staff and she would be solely responsible for the cost of training and coaching and tour expense. She could keep more of her winnings, with only eight percent of her winnings going to the Chinese Tennis Association development fund as opposed to 65 percent previously. In the summer of 2012, the requirement of contribution to the Chinese tennis development fund was lifted and Li kept all her prize money.
In May 2004, Li returned to competition after having not played since 2002. Although she was unranked, she won 26 successive matches to notch three further $25k tournament wins and another $50k title, increasing her career singles title count to 18, only to have her winning streak finally snapped by Evgenia Linetskaya in the semifinal of the $50k Bronx tournament that August. However, she won her 16th ITF doubles tournament at the same event, the 17th overall doubles title of her career.
On the back of the ranking points accrued through this result, on 4 October 2004, she broke into the WTA top 100 for the first time.
2005 saw Li finally abandoning the ITF circuit to focus solely on WTA-level events. She began the year with a second-round performance at Gold Coast and a semifinal showing at Hobart, but losing to fellow Chinese player and eventual tournament champion Zheng Jie. She then made her Grand Slam debut at the 2005 Australian Open, advancing to the third round with wins over Laura Granville and Shinobu Asagoe before losing to Maria Sharapova. In early February, she reached the quarterfinals at Hyderabad and qualified for Doha where she was narrowly beaten by Patty Schnyder in the first round of the main draw. After a victory over Ai Sugiyama in the first round at Dubai the following week, it was Schnyder once again who stopped her from reaching the later stages of the event.
Li and Kim Clijsters formed a well-known rivalry, having met eight times between 2006 and 2012. Clijsters won their head-to-head 6–2, including 4–0 at Grand Slams. Li's maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal was at Wimbledon in 2006 in which she was defeated by the second-seeded Clijsters in straight sets. Li's second Grand Slam quarterfinal was at the 2009 US Open, and again it was against Clijsters, who had recently launched a comeback after starting a family, who prevailed in straight sets.
Despite rising back up to world No. 24 following this victory, she then withdrew from the 2008 Medibank International in Sydney, after suffering a right knee injury. Her failure to defend her previous year's semifinal performance at this event cost her 125 ranking points, which dipped her ranking back down to No. 30 for the week beginning 14 January. Going into the 2008 Australian Open, she had a further 140 ranking points to defend from her fourth-round performance in 2007. Faced with a relatively lenient draw in the early rounds, she survived a close three-set tussle with Séverine Brémond in the first round, before surpassing Maria Elena Camerin in straight sets in round two. A revitalised Marta Domachowska remained between her and the defence of her ranking points, and although Li won the first set convincingly, she faltered thereafter and finally ceded the match to her Polish opponent by a single break of serve in the closely fought deciding set.
Li had not played a professional match in half a year and had resultantly slipped to No. 29 in the WTA rankings when she returned from her rib injury in January 2008 to compete at the 2008 Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts in Gold Coast. In the first round, she narrowly defeated seventh seed Sybille Bammer. After a comfortable second round victory over wild card Monique Adamczak, she was drawn to meet the top seed Nicole Vaidišová in the quarterfinals. Li won their encounter in straight sets, advancing to the semifinals, where she edged past Patty Schnyder. In the final, she narrowly prevailed against Victoria Azarenka, not only ending her 3-year title drought (since Guangzhou 2004) but scoring her second WTA singles title of her career.
In the 2008 Porsche Grand Prix, the unseeded Li defeated No. 1 ranked Serena Williams in the second round in three sets. Li thus became only the second Chinese player to defeat a world No. 1 player, following Zheng Jie's victory over Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon in 2008.
At the end of 2002, Li left the national tennis team to study part-time at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), where she completed her bachelor's degree in journalism in 2009. The Chinese media cited various reasons for this. Some reported that the relationship between her and her teammate and future husband, Jiang Shan (姜山), was opposed by the national team's management, some reported that her coach, Yu Liqiao (余丽桥), was too strict and demanding, while other reports claimed that her request for a personal coach did not go through. However, some regarded that it was just the health problem leading to the retirement. The New York Times reported that one of the reasons was that a team leader wanted her to play through by taking hormone medicine as Li struggled with her performance due to hormone imbalance.
At the 2009 Bank of the West Classic, she lost to Serena Williams in the first round, and at the LA Women's Tennis Championships, she withdrew due to injury during her match with Urszula Radwańska of Poland. Seeded 18th at the US Open, she reached her first US Open quarterfinals, where she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters. En route to the quarterfinals, she defeated Ioana Raluca Olaru, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Maria Kirilenko, and Francesca Schiavone all in straight sets. Seeded 15th at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, Li won her opening match against Alizé Cornet. She then defeated Vera Dushevina before beating Kateryna Bondarenko. In the quarterfinal, she defeated Victoria Azarenka in three sets, two of which were tiebreaks where though she failed in serving for the match twice in the last set. Li lost in the semifinals to Jelena Janković, and finished the year at world No. 15, her career-high year-end ranking.
Nike was Li's clothing and footwear sponsor for many years, dating back to her early tennis career. Li used Babolat Pure Drive GT rackets. In 2009, Li was signed by IMG. She rose to fame after her Roland Garros triumph, and since had signed seven endorsements in multiple-year terms. Her agent, Max Eisenbud, also managed to negotiate a deal allowing Li to wear other sponsors' patches on her Nike tennis shirt, something not usually permitted by the sportswear giant.
Li Na had a see-saw rivalry with Maria Sharapova, with the latter winning their first five matches dating back to 2005, including Li's Grand Slam debut at the 2005 Australian Open. Li won her first match against Sharapova in the 2009 Birmingham semifinals, starting a series of four consecutive wins against Sharapova. Li beat Sharapova again in Birmingham in 2010, this time in the final, and in the semifinals of the 2011 French Open, on her way to winning her maiden Grand Slam. At the Year-end Championships later that year, Li defeated Sharapova in the round robin stage. In 2012, Li and Sharapova met three times, with Sharapova winning all three of their matches, the most notable being the final of the clay-court tournament in Rome. Li won the first set and looked headed for victory when she went 4–0 up in the second due to an effectively aggressive gameplan which saw her take 15 of 17 points. With victory nearing Li suddenly saw her accuracy shatter and 24 unforced errors let Sharapova back into the match to eventually take a three set win over Li. They met again in the 2013 Australian Open semifinals, where Li achieved her most notable victory over Sharapova, winning in straight sets and giving up just four games (Sharapova had lost just nine entering the match). A few months later at the 2013 Porsche Grand Prix Tennis in Stuttgart, Sharapova defended her title by defeating Li in the final. The pair was involved in another three set battle in the 2014 Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals, where Sharapova eventually triumphed even though Li was up a set and a break. Sharapova led Li in the head-to-head 10–5.
Li and Agnieszka Radwańska first played each other in 2009. Li led the head-to-head 6–5. After their first four matches in 2009 and 2010 the head-to-head was even at 2–2. This included a victory each at the Wimbledon Championships; Radwańska winning in 2009 and Li in 2010. In 2012 Li and Radwańska met 4 times, with Li taking 3 victories. Li lost their meeting in the Stuttgart quarter-final in three sets, but dominated in Montréal, Cincinnati and Beijing. Li prevented Radwańska from taking the world No. 1 ranking off Victoria Azarenka with the first two victories, whilst she also ended her title defence in Beijing, securing the eighth and final place in the year-end championships in the process.
Li next played at the Apia International, at which she made consecutive finals the two previous years, winning in 2011. She was pushed to the limit by Christina McHale but had little trouble with Ayumi Morita. She met young American Madison Keys in the quarterfinals who proved to be a tougher challenge, with Li prevailing in three tight sets to book a semifinal showdown with world No. 4, Agnieszka Radwańska. Li looked the winner in the early stages of the match, but somewhat faltered, producing a high number of unforced errors which handed Radwańska the first set. She saved four match points on Radwańska's serve in the ninth game of the second set and three on her own serve in the tenth game. However, eventually she succumbed to the pressure and a half-volley into the net sealed the win for Radwańska in an hour and 32 minutes, putting an end to Li's Sydney reign.
At the Australian Open Li easily stormed through to the quarterfinals, where she faced world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwańska, who had not dropped a set during a 13-match winning streak. Li became the first player to defeat her this season and advanced to the semifinals where she ousted world No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets, who had only dropped a record-low nine games in the tournament. This marked Li's second Australian Open final appearance in three years, finishing runner-up to Kim Clijsters in 2011. In the final, Li was hampered by injuries, falling over on two occasions. The first of which occurred at 1–3 in the second set, a fall that saw Li incur a 10-minute medical timeout. She fell over a second time after the Australia Day fireworks break, not only twisting her left ankle once more but also heavily knocking the rear of her head on the court, causing a momentary black-out. Despite being severely hindered in her movement, she continued playing but eventually lost the match in three sets to Victoria Azarenka.
Their first meeting was in the final of the 2008 Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts tournament (which has since been renamed the Brisbane International), which Li Na won in three sets after Azarenka had won the first. Azarenka's first victory over Li was in the third round of the 2010 Rogers Cup. They met three times in 2011, two of which were at Grand Slams, with Li winning on both occasions, before Azarenka won their third meeting at the 2011 WTA Tour Championships, en route to reaching the final.
After the disappointing Australian Open campaign, Li participated in the 2012 Fed Cup and won all three of her matches on home soil. She defeated Kei-Chen Changand and Nigina Abduraimova during the round robin stages to push China to the promotional play-offs against Kazakhstan. She next played Galina Voskoboeva and won in three sets. This win sealed the tie and secured China's spot in the World Group II play-offs.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Li, seeded 10th, crashed out in the first round to Slovakian Daniela Hantuchová. Her poor performance caused her to drop out of the world top ten for the second time in the year following the conclusion of the Games. After the Olympics, Li announced that she and Carlos Rodríguez, coach of former world No. 1 and seven-time major winner Justine Henin, have commenced a coaching relationship.
For the 2012 WTA Tour Championships, Li was placed in the red group along with Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. She played Serena Williams in her opening match and lost in two sets after failing to capatalise on her 4–1 first set lead. She defeated Angelique Kerber in her second match before losing to Azarenka in her third match; in the latter match, she had served for the first set at 5–4, but was broken and lost the set in a tie-break. This was the final match of her 2012 season, finishing the year ranked world No. 7.
On 29 December 2012, Li beat Victoria Azarenka in an annual exhibition event in Hua Hin, Thailand.
They met a further three times in 2012, with Azarenka winning each time. They met in the final of the Sydney International, where the Belarusian won in three sets after breaking the defending champion Li at 4–3 in the decider. Azarenka was also victorious in their meetings at Madrid and the year-end championships.
She then headed to Beijing to take part in the 2013 China Open as the home crowd favourite, defeating Daniela Hantuchová, Bojana Jovanovski and Sabine Lisicki in straight sets before falling to Petra Kvitová in the quarterfinals.
Following a 21–3 start to the season, Li was forced out of the 2014 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix due to a left knee injury, where she was the finalist in 2013. She started her clay court campaign at the Madrid Open, where she recorded wins over Kirsten Flipkens and Zheng Jie in the first two rounds. Li then battled past Sloane Stephens in three sets, and was again involved in a narrow three setter in her quarterfinal against Maria Sharapova, eventually succumbing to the Russian after taking the first set comfortably. At the 2014 Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Li beat Australians Casey Dellacqua (for her 500th career win) and Sam Stosur, before suffering her first loss to Sara Errani in the quarterfinals. After the match, Li told reporters that she had vomited less than 20 minutes prior to stepping onto the court due to food poisoning. At the French Open, she was upset by French youngster Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round. This was also Li's earliest loss in the tournament. Li's first round loss contributed to three negative tennis records. Due to fellow 2014 Australian Open men's champion Stanislas Wawrinka losing in the first round as well, it was the first time in the history of tennis that the reigning Grand Slam winners were ousted in the opening round of their next major. Due to number one seed Serena Williams losing in the second round, it was the first time in Open Era history that the top two seeded women have lost before the third round at any Grand Slam tournament. After No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwańska lost in the third round, it was also the first time in the Open Era that none of the top-3 seeds advanced past the third round.
As the most successful East Asian, and Asian tennis player ever, Li has become one of the most well-known and marketable athletes in the world. In 2013, Li appeared on the cover of Time magazine, which named her to its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World; Li being one of only four athletes to be named on the list. Former world No. 1 Chris Evert writes: "Tennis has exploded in China. The country now has some 15 million tennis players; 116 million watched Li win the French Open. That kind of exposure is crucial to our sport, and it never would have happened without Li. At tournaments, I've seen her charm the crowds. When she smiles, everyone melts. She's just such a breath of fresh air. Her friendly on-court demeanour as well as her hilariously-witty post-match interviews brings a smile to everyone's face." Li also appeared on the cover of 26 May 2014 edition of Time magazine, which featured an article titled "The Passion of Li Na", in which author Hannah Beech described Li as a world class sports idol, inspiring millions of Chinese people to regard her as an icon of pursuing independent character and freedom of thought. In 2012, Forbes listed Li as No. 85 in the Forbes Celebrity 100 list. Li, along with the fellow tennis players Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, were the only three female athletes who cracked the Top 100 earning list. Li was ranked No. 5 and No.8 on the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Li is affectionately called "Big Sister Na" (Chinese: 娜姐; pinyin: Nàjiě) among Chinese communities and is considered a "strong, unbending and unyielding" role model. She has not only become a household name across China but a global icon, with her Sina Weibo microblogging having over 23 million followers as of October 2014. Her perceived rebelliousness, exemplified by the rose tattoo on her chest and her previous run-ins with government sports programs, also helped boost her popularity. On 15 April 2015, Li received the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement award at the Laureus World Sports Awards held in Shanghai. She was also a nominee for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award, alongside Serena Williams.
In 2013 both won the first tournament they entered. They were both undefeated when they met each other in the semifinals of their second tournament of the year at Sydney. Radwańska beat Li and eventually won the tournament. This was Li's first defeat of 2013, while Radwańska remained unbeaten. In the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals, Li handed Radwańska her first loss of the season. They met again at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals, with Radwańska eking out a close three set win.
Having not played since Wimbledon due to a left knee injury which required surgery, Li announced her retirement from professional tennis on 19 September 2014. She ended her career ranked world No. 6 by the Women's Tennis Association. That year she was named one of ESPNW's Impact 25.
On 19 January 2015, Li announced that she and her husband were expecting their first child. She gave birth to her daughter Alisa in June 2015.
On 5 June 2016, Li was commissioned by Special Olympics as a Global Ambassador.
Currently, Li Na is 39 years, 0 months and 9 days old. Li Na will celebrate 40th birthday on a Saturday 26th of February 2022.
Find out about Li Na birthday activities in timeline view here.