China’s Li Na has just made a tennis revolution – the 29-year-old defeated last year’s winner Francesca Schiavone in the final of Roland Garros and the sport not so popular in China is now expected to bloom, or at least to start blooming, and when you have a population of so many people in question than it’s a really big deal. As for the very championship match, Li was solid, had precise shots and was in charge more or less throughout the match, which can be described as one calm Grand Slam final, without much fuss and excessively expressed emotions.
The world No.7 Li had a straightforward win in the first set. In 39 minutes the Chinese sixth seed faced no break points, took Schiavone’s serve in the fifth game and simply marched on to take the set 6-4. The second set Li continued in the similar fashion, breaking Schiavone’s serve in the very beginning and at 3-1 Li had a great opportunity to bring the match too close to an end, but she netted a clear shot and the world No.5 Schiavone slowly managed to get back into the match when she leveled at 4-4. Then both players held their serves until the tiebreak in which Li started shining again and actually won it without losing a point! Final score: 6-4 7-6(0).
Li was playing aggressively and her shots were mostly landing where she wanted them to land, so her number of winners totaled 31 to her opponent’s only 12.
En route to the title match at the 2011 French Open Li defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in the first round, Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain in the second, Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the third, ninth seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the fourth, seed No.4 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the quarterfinals and seventh-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia in the semis.
In case you forgot, this French Open final was actually Li’s second Grand Slam singles final. Her first one she played this year, at the Australian Open. As for her WTA titles, Li has four: Guangzhou (2004), Gold Coast (2008), Birmingham (2010), Sydney (2011).
Regarding the 2011 French Open prize money, the Nike-clad Li Na earned an astonishing 1.2 million euros, which is about 1,750,000 US dollars. As a runner-up Schiavone earned 600,000 euros, i.e. almost 900,000 US dollars.
I’d also like to mention a nice factbox Reuters compiled about the rise of China’s tennis (they published it before Li won Roland Garros). (photos: francetvsport)