SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Li Na is destined for more grand slams and a place in the Hall of Fame after the Australian Open win cemented her position as the most influential female player of the last decade, said former great Chris Evert.
Li’s final victory over Slovak Dominika Cibulkova on Saturday gave her a second major following her 2011 French Open title, a triumph that made her Asia’s first singles grand slam champion.
Evert, the winner of 18 grand slam titles, joined WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster in hailing the Chinese’s achievements at a timely promotional event on Monday for the end of year championships in Singapore and women’s tennis in Asia.
“Yeah, I’d vote for her,” Evert told reporters when asked if Li was worthy of a place alongside her in the Hall of Fame. “It’s not only about winning grand slams its about the influence that you have in tennis.
“Look at her, as Stacey said she is the most influential women’s tennis player in the last 10 years, with what she has done for global tennis so absolutely 100 percent.
“Something would be wrong if she didn’t get into the tennis hall of fame.”
Her impressive play and comical post match interviews have made her a crowd favorite in Australia and around the world, with Allaster brimming as Asia, and China in particular, embraces the sport.
Singapore and Beijing now house WTA offices while 17 WTA events will be played in Asian Pacific in 2014. Allaster said Li’s latest boost had been timely.
The 31-year-old clubbed her way past first-time finalist Cibulkova in Saturday’s showpiece to help erase the memories of two previous failures in Melbourne Park finals.
The Wuhan native, who moved up one place to world number three in the rankings courtesy of her victory, saved match points in her third round victory in Australia over Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic before finding her feet.
Li, the winner of nine WTA titles, then dropped only 18 games in her four subsequent matches to leave Evert predicting the Chinese could add a third or fourth grand slam before the year is out.
“This year she is still up for grand slams, along with Serena (Williams), Maria (Sharapova), Victoria (Azarenka).
“She is right up there with them too. There was always a little gap before you said Li Na’s name but now I think she is right up there with all of them after the type of tennis she played at the Australian Open.”
Editing by Justin Palmer