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Wednesday October 10, 2012

Li Na says age is nothing to her and rules out retirement

BEIJING: Chinese tennis star Li Na has insisted “age is nothing” and put retirement talk on hold as she eyes next season with rising confidence after a resurgence she credits to her new coach, Carlos Rodriguez.

“I am excited for next season. I think I will be more positive,” Li Na, who will be 31 in February, said at the China Open.

“Age is nothing. Right now I am feeling healthy. I can still run on the court. I’m still top in the world. Why I should stop? I should continue my dream and just keep going.”

The 30-year-old enjoyed an impressive run in Beijing, reaching the semi-finals and securing her participation in the US$4.9 million end-of-season WTA Championships in Istanbul later this month.

Li Na, who made the semi-finals of the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing for the second time and improved on last year’s humiliating first round defeat, is now on track to finish in the world’s top 10 for the second year in a row.

Li Na has struggled with consistency since becoming Asia’s first Grand Slam-winner at the French Open last year, but she credited her recent mini-revival to the appointment of Rodriguez.

“We have a very pleasant cooperation,” Li said of Rodriguez, who coached seven-time Grand Slam-winner Justine Henin for 15 years, adding that her “whole team” had benefited from his appointment.

Li Na said when he was brought on board, after she dropped out of the top 10 in the world following a first-round defeat at the London Olympics, their “goal” was for her to qualify for the October 23-28 WTA Championships in Istanbul.

“At the last minute we made our wish possible,” she said after her straight-sets semi-final Beijing defeat to Maria Sharapova on Saturday.

“In that case, I’m very much satisfied with my performance and the past decision,” she added.

Li Na has enjoyed a revival in form since appointing Rodriguez. In August, she won her first tournament since last year’s Paris triumph in Cincinnati, and she has risen to number seven in the rankings.

She has also credited Rodriguez with helping her keep her emotions in check on court. — AFP

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