Li Na cruises into sec­ond round of the US Open

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in New York

China’s Li Na 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 her home­land.

Li, the fifth seed and 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 hard courts.

“I’m re­ally happy the way I’m hit­ting the ball now on the court. I’ll just try to con­tinue,” Li said.

“The first match is al­ways tough be­cause you never know what hap­pens on the court. If you lose, there’s noth­ing to say be­cause you’re al­ready out of 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 she has taken to heart.

“I’m very proud that I grew up in China and never had an Asian player won a Grand Slam sin­gles, so that was 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 said she felt the role model pres­sure can be a heavy bur­den at times.

“Be­fore two or three years ago, I could not 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 last cou­ple of years I learned ev­ery day to like the pres­sure a lit­tle bit. I feel pres­sure can push me to go for­ward.”

Li said she has not bro­ken a ten­nis racket in five or six years, a way of vent­ing frus­tra­tion that some play­ers use ev­ery five or six days.

“I love my racket; I never break it,” Li said.

“If you lose the point, it’s not about your racket, it’s about your­self. If you break the racket, if you lose again, you still have to do the same thing. You have to con­trol your­self on the court.”

ED­UARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS

Li Na re­turns to Olga Govortsova at the US Open in New York on Mon­day. Li, seeded fifth, won 6-2, 6-2.

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