Na Li of China reacts after a shot during her French Open womens final match against Italian Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros in Paris. Li defeated Schiavone 6-4, 7-6 to become the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam tennis event.
The sixth-seeded Li used powerful groundstrokes to compile a 31-12 edge in winners, and won the last nine points of the match, a run that began when the fifth-seeded Schiavone was flustered by a line call she was sure was wrong.
“China tennis – we’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Li, who is projected to rise to a career-best No. 4 in Monday’s new WTA rankings.
She already was the first woman from that nation of more than 1 billion people to win a WTA singles title, the first to enter the top 10 in the rankings, and the first to make it to a Grand Slam final – she lost to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open in January.
Thinking back to that defeat, Li said: “I had no experience. I was very nervous. For my second time in a final, I had the experience. I knew how to do it. And I had more self-confidence.”
She broke away from the Chinese government’s sports system in late 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players dubbed “Fly Alone.” Li was given the freedom to choose her own coach and schedule and to keep much more of her earnings: Previously, she turned over 65 percent to the authorities; now it’s 12 percent. That comes to about $205,000 of the $1.7 million French Open winner’s check.