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Li Na avenges Wimbledon loss to Lisicki   2011-12-18 21:44:00

Chinese tennis star Li Na defeats Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 7-6 (3) at the Wuhan Tiandi 2011 Li Na and Friends tennis tournament, December 17, 2011. (Photo: Xinhua)

Much to the delight of the thousands of fans packing the Wuhan Sports Center, Li Na avenged her Wimbledon loss to eventual Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in Wuhan Tiandi 2011 Li Na and Friends tennis tournament.

Li Na charged out of the gate, winning the first game at love, and applied steady pressure to her opponent until ultimately breaking Lisicki in the eighth game. Li Na held easily to close out the first set, but the second set would be a much tenser affair, with the momentum seesawing between the two players.

Lisicki held to open the second set, and then stepped into the court to break Li Na with a piercing forehand crosscourt winner.

Li Na steadied the storm by opening up the throttle, steamrolling Lisicki with three consecutive breaks of serve.

Yet when serving for the match at 5-2, Li Na wavered just enough for Lisicki to take advantage, and her opponent stepped in again to crush another winner and snatch one break back.

Lisicki then held serve to force Li Na to serve for the match, 5-4. Li Na raced out to a 40-0 lead and triple match point, but Lisicki showed the same resolve that helped her to defeat Li Na at Wimbledon after being two match points down.

She clawed back to deuce, clambering all over the net to earn a break point.

Stretched out wide, Lisicki cranked a sharply angled forehand crosscourt to even the set. At 5-all, Li Na proved the steadier of the two, breaking back to give herself another chance to serve out the match, but Lisicki forced a tiebreaker, sending thousands of stomachs around the stadium spiraling into jittery anxiety.

Getting the mini-break at 2-1 gave Li Na the breathing room she needed to suppress her nerves and close out the match.

The atmosphere electric, the crowd infused the stadium with their enthusiasm. Tennis' popularity in Wuhan was made evident by the fans' expertise, as they oohed and aahed in all the right places, savoring the display just as a sommelier appreciates a fine wine.

"The longer the match went on, the better we played," said Lisicki. "It was a very good match, an entertaining match, but she was just better than me today."

After the drama of the singles, every point mattered in the one-set mixed doubles match. Looking every bit the part of Li Na and Friends, the four players had a great time on the court, and played scintillating tennis along the way.

Pete Sampras and Li Na paired to take on Carlos Moya and Lisicki, who with partner Sam Stosur was the 2011 Wimbledon doubles finalist. The match struck a balance light-spirited and thrilling, and the repartee the players delivered with their rackets intoxicated the fans, who didn't want the night to end.

Sampras and Li Na took the tight match by a three-point margin, squeaking out a 7-6(4) win.

"Tonight's just about having fun," Sampras said afterwards. "Being on the court with these three great players is fun."

"It's very important what Li Na did by winning Roland Garros this year," said the 1998 Roland Garros Champion Carlos Moya. "She took tennis to another level in China. There were good female players from China before, but they never won a slam. She proved a Chinese player can do that. For sure, now they want to play tennis. If they have a hero that is doing well in tennis, kids don't only want to be football players, they also want to be tennis players. Tennis is much bigger now than it used to be a few years ago and it is very important to take advantage of that."

Indeed, one need only look into the stands to see how Li Na has inspired the next generation of tennis players in China, with the Hubei Province Tennis School kids occupying a whole section of the stands as they literally bounced out of their seats to chant: "Li Na, Jia You!" (a familiar refrain foreign sports fans will recognize from the Olympics, "Add fuel!" or "Come on!" )

After the first day of Wuhan Tiandi 2011 Li Na and Friends, one truth is made evident: the real winner of the night and the true beneficiary of Li Na's historic 2011 Grand Slam victory is the sport of tennis.

source : Xinhua     editor:: Ma Ting
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