Naharnet

Li Shrugs Off Chinese Grand Slam Frenzy

Li Na Friday said she was largely unaware of the huge excitement in China before her historic Australian Open final, despite dozens of messages from well-wishers and her best friend calling up in tears.

Li said she hadn't read any coverage on the Internet after Chinese sites and newspapers were awash with news of her achievement and the country's tennis chief compared her to basketball superstar Yao Ming.

"I never look the Internet, what they say," she shrugged, when asked how she felt about being compared to Yao.

"Of course, not all the people say you are good or something. I never look at the Internet, I never read the news about me."

On Saturday, Li will become the first Asian woman to play a Grand Slam final when she faces Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open title match, in what is being hailed as a major boost for tennis in China.

Chinese Tennis Association head Sun Jinfang called Li a "pioneer" and a national sports hero on a par with basketball idol Yao and champion hurdler Liu Xiang.

Li, 28, said she received more than 40 messages after beating top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals on Thursday.

"I turned on my phone and a lot of messages came. I think they showed the match live in China, so many friends watched. They just said congratulations.

"My best friend just called me. She cried on the phone and I was like, 'okay, take it easy, calm down'. I didn't know what to say."

Li also got a text message from her mother, who refuses to watch her daughter play live because she is too nervous.

"She said 'well done. I'm waiting for you at home'."

Source: Agence France Presse


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