Li Na cruises into second round of the US Open
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.”
Li Na returns to Olga Govortsova at the US Open in New York on Monday. Li, seeded fifth, won 6-2, 6-2.