China's Li Na announces her retirement from tennis

Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:04am EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Li Na, Asia's only grand slam singles champion, announced her retirement from tennis on Friday, succumbing to the effect of long-term knee injuries.

A former French Open winner and the reigning Australian Open champion, Li said her troublesome knees, that have plagued her throughout her career, prevented her from ever regaining full fitness and forced her hand.

"The task of finally making a decision to hang up my racquet felt a lot more difficult than winning seven matches in a row in the Australian heat," she said in a letter posted on her Facebook page.

"It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be.

"Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family."

The 32-year-old, known affectionately as "Big Sister Na" and "Golden Flower" in China, won the 2011 French Open then this year's Australian Open.

She climbed to number two in the world rankings but her knees were steadily getting worse and she skipped this year's U.S. Open, triggering speculation her dazzling career was drawing to a close.

"Most people in the tennis world know that my career has been marked by my troubled right knee. The black brace I wear over it when I step on the court has become my tennis birth mark. And while the brace completes my tennis look, the knee problems have at times overtaken my life," she said.   Continued...

Li Na of China hits a return to Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic during their women's singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London June 27, 2014.   REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files