September 19, 2014 / 10:14 AM / 5 years ago

The wit and wisdom of Li Na

(Reuters) - China's Li Na, the first Asian to win grand slam singles titles in tennis, announced her retirement from the sport on Friday. Known also for her wit, her wisdom and her pithy one-liners, below are a selection from her years on the tennis circuit, compiled by Simon Cambers of The Tennis Space

Li Na of China poses with her trophy near the Eiffel Tower in Paris after winning her women's final against Francesca Schiavone of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris June 4, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

On her strong work ethic: “I think many young players don’t know about working, they can get whatever they want. They think ‘I need a phone, I need a computer.’ The family just gives it to them. They don’t need to do something to get it. After my father died, my mom had to take care of everything. It was tough for her. I learned a lot from her about working hard for everything.”

On male Chinese players: “I think they’re strong in the body, but not so strong in the mind. They have to believe in themselves more. Right now they think, ‘Oh, my ranking is around 300, that’s perfect’. But it’s not perfect. I mean, 300 is nothing in the whole world. So they need to have high goals. The women are doing well but I hope one day the men can grow up as well. They are lazy.”

On shopping with her husband’s credit card: “With Chinese banks, if you use the credit card, they will send a text message, where you are, when, and how much you’re using. If I use it, he will for sure know what I’m doing. He will call, ‘Where are you?’ I can use the credit card, but he’s still totally in control.”

On how people change after they are married: “My husband has changed since we got married and so have I. Before we were married, I would say to him, ‘I’m going shopping’ and he would say, ‘Okay, fine’. Now, I say that I’m going shopping and he says. ‘Why are you always going shopping?’”

On being coached by her husband: “It can be tough. It’s like, ‘wife, husband, player, coach’. Sometimes if I’m working hard on the court, I want to have a five-minute break and he says, ‘No, we should keep going’. I say: ‘You’re my husband, why don’t you listen to me?’ On the tennis court, I should listen to him. We’ve had arguments, a little bit of fighting. I only have to listen to him on the court, nowhere else.”

On how life changed after she became a grand slam champion: “After I won a grand slam, I thought I would feel actually the same. But I think I was totally wrong because I couldn’t concentrate on the court anymore. I have to do so many things on the court, off the court. I was thinking, ‘Am I still an athlete or not? I’m not movie star. I’m athlete. I have to do good job on the tennis court.’ So I was feeling if I can’t do well, why the sponsor should come for me? They can come for another athlete. I think I was making a lot of pressure for myself. I was feeling after I win a grand slam, other players didn’t have anything to lose against me. They come to court, boom, boom. Suddenly I’m losing match so easily. I wasn’t strong in the mind.”

On fame: “My husband’s probably more famous than me. After the Australian Open last year, we were on the plane in Hong Kong, and a stewardess said to me, ‘Hey, that guy is Li Na’s husband’. I said to her: ‘Yeah, yeah, he looks like him, so many people say that’. After about half an hour, the stewardess came back to me and said: ‘Oh, I’m really sorry, I didn’t realize you are Li Na’. Now when we walk down the street, people seem to recognize him before they recognize me.”

On becoming a housewife after her retirement: “I will take care of my husband and take care of my children as well. As a tennis athlete, I only focus on the tennis court, but I think I can do well as a housewife as well. Tennis is a very tough sport, and I think I can do well in the tennis court, so I believe I can also do well as a housewife. But it would be a new challenge, so let’s see.”

On Chinese New Year: “I mean it’s just eating, eating all the time, you know? I think it’s like Christmas in the West. You don’t need to think about, or worry about, bad things. I talked to friends. They didn’t care about me being the tennis player, or the hero, or something. For them, I am just their friend.”

Compiled by Simon Cambers, of The Tennis Space

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