Li: Baby won’t slow Ser­ena

Chi­nese great backs new mom for quick re­turn

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

WUHAN, Hubei — Chi­nese great Li Na backed Ser­ena Wil­liams to pull off a speedy re­turn to ten­nis after the birth of her first child — but said there was no way she could have rushed back to the sport.

Wil­liams, 36, has spo­ken of her “out­ra­geous” plans to de­fend her ti­tle at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, less than five months after giv­ing birth to her baby daugh­ter on Sept 1.

Li, who an­nounced she was preg­nant two months after re­tir­ing in 2014, said she wouldn’t have been able to leave her own young daugh­ter, adding that she had prob­a­bly only hit a ten­nis ball 10 times since quit­ting the sport and be­com­ing a mother.

“Ser­ena can fix ev­ery­thing,” Li said, re­fer­ring to the chal­lenge of be­ing a ten­nis-play­ing par­ent. “But if I think about my­self, I couldn’t do that. With a baby so young, I couldn’t leave them.”

Asked if she missed ten­nis, the 35-year-old two-time Grand Slam win­ner told re­porters in Wuhan that she han­kered after the “fight and com­pe­ti­tion” but that she had left that side of her­self be­hind.

“Now I just fol­low,” said Li, whose daugh­ter is now two and who also has a baby son.

Other for­mer stars have won­dered whether Wil­liams, a 23-time ma­jor-win­ner, would be able to re­gain top form so soon after hav­ing her daugh­ter, Alexis Olympia Oha­nian.

Kim Cli­jsters, who re­tired for two years and be­came a mother be­fore re­turn­ing to win the 2009 US Open, said it de­pends on “how your body re­acts — ev­ery­body re­acts dif­fer­ent in those sit­u­a­tions”.

Amer­i­can Mary Joe Fer­nan­dez also said she could not have played as a mother to young kids but that “Ser­ena is an ex­cep­tion to a lot of rules”.

But Wil­liams’ good friend Caro­line Woz­ni­acki said the new mother re­mained “fo­cused” on her come­back.

“I think she’s go­ing to do a strong come­back but I think at the same time she’s en­joy­ing be­ing a mum as well and get­ting that whole ex­pe­ri­ence. I think it’s very spe­cial,” Woz­ni­acki said in Wuhan.

Li, a na­tive of Wuhan and a global am­bas­sador for her home­town tour­na­ment, ap­peared un­cer­tain as to whether she would be happy if her chil­dren grew up to be­come ten­nis play­ers.

“I would be happy of course, the sport can change you a lot, it can make a child stronger,” she said, adding that the con­stant trav­el­ing is “very tough”.

“It’s not easy to con­tinue for so many years, to do the same thing and no time with fam­ily,” she added.

CHENG MIN / XINHUA

China’s two-time Grand Slam win­ner Li Na (right) shares a light mo­ment dur­ing a ten­nis clinic at the WTA Wuhan Open in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, on Thurs­day.

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