The (Chinese) revolution has come, and it was televised.
China’s 29-year-old Li Na, who says she is not a claycourt player, became the first Asian player (man or woman) to win a Slam title on Saturday when she defeated defending champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-6(0) in the 2011 French Open final.
Li can perhaps send a thank-you note to Babolat, the first-time ball supplier at the French Open. Rafael Nadal was is among players complaining that the Babolat ball is heavier and faster than the previous manufacturer’s ball. The No. 6-seeded Li beat the No. 5-seeded Schiavone after losing to the Italian in straight sets at Roland Garros last year.
Schiavone trailed almost the entire match, struggling to match Li’s power off the ground.
“Francesca is a claycourt player — she hits topspin and slice so well, so I just tried to play my tennis and keep her running,” Li said. “She’s a top player so you never know what will happen and when she will come back in the match, but when we went into the tiebreak I told myself it was my chance to do it. Before this tournament, people said I couldn’t do well on claycourts. Now I think they will change their minds.”
Li will rise to No. 4 on the WTA Rankings, equaling the highest-ranked Asian, Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm.
Schiavone was congratulatory of Li’s effort, adding that she will be back next year.
“Today was really tough but I have to say congratulations to Li Na,” Schiavone said. “She has grown so much this year and played so well today. I hope she enjoys this moment because it’s fantastic. I had my chances and was playing much better in the second set, but she really deserved to win today.”
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