Role-model Li rolls at Open
Li Na of China returns a shot to Olga Govortsova of Belarus during their 2013 US Open women's single match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, on August 26, 2013 in New York. Li cruised into the second round of the US Open on Monday as easily as she has slipped into being a role model for her sport and homeland.
Li, Asia's top women's hope at the year's final Grand Slam event, ousted Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2, 6-2 in only 64 minutes and will next face Swede Sofia Arvidsson on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
"I was really happy the way I was hitting the ball now on the court. I'll just try to continue," Li said.
"Always tough first match because you never know what happens on the court. If you lose, nothing to say after because you already left the tournament."
Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people for her impact in China, a role that she has taken to heart.
"I was so proud I grew up in China and never has Asian player won a Grand Slam singles, so this is a huge one," Li said. "Before I was feeling OK. I was just doing my job to play good tennis.
"But after these two years, I feel it's not only about what I should do. If you are training on the court, it's not only for the match. So many people watch what you do. Maybe if you say something bad or do something wrong, the children say, 'Oh look, she does this.' This is not good for improving tennis."
Li admitted that she felt the role model pressure as a heavy burden at times.
"Before two or three years ago, I cannot hang in there because I was feeling maybe I would crash because of the pressure," Li said.
"But if you are a student of life, you have to learn every day. These couple of years I was stronger a little bit, not too much but still learn every day to like the pressure. I was feeling pressure can push me to go forward."
Li said she has not broken a tennis racquet in five or six years, a way of venting frustration that some players use every five or six days.
"I love my racquet. I never break it," Li said. "If you lose the point, it's not business about your racquet. It's about yourself. If you break the racquet, if you lose again, you still have to do the same thing. You have to control yourself on the court."
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