Li Na played almost perfect tennis in Saturday’s ladies’ final in Paris vs. defending champ Francesca Schiavone. Her serve was on, her ground strokes crisp, her forays to net well-timed and sure. Even the way she overcame her nerves late in the second set was textbook.
“I never believe myself I can be in the final of the French Open, and today I got it,” she told the press this week after taking out Maria Sharapova in the semis. But she played with quite a bit of belief in the final – a bit like Francesca did last year.
LI Na gave a brief and perfunctory trophy speech, but there’s no doubting what this means to her.
As for the emotive Francesca, she praised the tournament right after praising Li: “For me to kiss the clay everyday that’s something coming from my heart.”
“When I come here, I feel something special, that’s all,” Francesca’s said earlier this week, explaining her success at Roland Garros. Unfortunately for her, she just wasn’t feeling it today. Despite a few inspired points and a gritty push to extend the match at the end of the second, this wasn’t the fearless, fleet of foot Franny that we saw in last year’s final. But even Schiavone at 75% is still pretty great.
As with Schiavone last year, Li Na becomes yet another deserving, witty and wise champion in the wild new frontier of women’s tennis. And while the landscape will likely change yet again in a couple weeks but for now I’m just enjoying the sights.
Oh, and she’s the first player from China to win a Major singles title – you know, in case you haven’t heard.