Aparently, yes :) http://www.generali-ladies.at/en/the.tournament_players.php
Li Na is my favourite tennis player and one of my heroes.
Even though I sensed retirement was looming after Na’s early French Open and Wimbledon exits, it stills feels like a dagger in my heart once Na made it official.
I’ve watched tennis my whole life but I only started watching Na play in 2011. The first Na match I saw was her 2011 AO SF clash against Caroline Wozniacki who was ranked #1 at the time. As the match progressed I finally realised how momentous it would be if Na won. If Na were victorious, then she would’ve been the first Asian player to reach a GS singles final ever. I suddenly found myself getting pumped up and rooting for her as if my life depended on it. Na was facing match point and saved it by hitting one of her usual breathtaking winners, in this case a forehand down the line. Na eventually prevailed in 3 sets resulting with me frantically jumping up and down in pure joy and I shed a tear or two. I just felt sheer happiness. After the match, Na gave the best post-match interview ever. I was in stitches from laughing so much. It was as if Na had the palm of the crowd in her hand. I then realised how special and unique Na is and ever since then Na has always been a part of me.
Fast forward to 2011 in June. I turned on my stream of her 4R clash with Kvitova and Na was a set down. All I thought was, well this is it, you did your best Na…..but Na fought back to win in 3 sets. Following this win, Na defeated 3 top ten players consecutively in straight sets to become the first and only player from the whole Asian continent to win a GS in the singles. That day was my 18th birthday and unfortunately I couldn’t watch the final as I was at a Kylie Minogue concert (where she wished me happy birthday :’). Anyways, I remember checking the final score on my phone after the concert and having this permanent smile on my face. Na finally did it. Best. Birthday. Ever.
My journey as a Na fan since then has been full of emotional highs and lows. Na fell in a seemingly permanent slump after her FO triumph and I started to question Na’s ability to return to the summit of tennis. During this slump, Na still never gave up and I admired her persistence to maintain her fighting spirit.
An example of this fighting spirit was during the 2013 AO final against Azarenka. It seems like the whole world was rooting for Na and I was so certain that she was going to win but luck was not on her side as she rolled her ankle not once, but twice and she also experienced a concussion. One of my favourite Na moments was when the medical staff performed a test and Na couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation resulting in the crowd laughing and cheering her [x]. Na was the runner-up but she was the true champion in my eyes.
Now fast forward to 2014 at the Australian Open. Na finally did it again. Na finally won her favourite Grand Slam and is now a multi-Grand Slam champion! I was deliriously happy.
It was not long after the AO that Na reached #2 in the world and it seems that reaching that illustrious #1 ranking was reachable for Na. However it was not meant to be as both of her knees began to betray her.
Words fail me when I try to express how much I will miss Na. I will miss her smile, her ultra aggressive game, the way she constructed the point to hit a winner, waking up at 3AM in the morning just to watch her play a 1R match, her backhand, cheering her on, gasping every time she hit a winner, pulling my hair out every time she resorted to being a UE-machine, browsing Tennis Forum frequently for any news about Na, her effortless ability to push her opponents from corner to corner, re-watching the same match highlights everyday, the way she yelled ‘come on’ as ‘MON’, her natural ability to make people laugh and countless of other things.
After I read her letter, I felt this overwhelming sinking feeling in my heart. I didn’t want this day to come. I’m selfish and I don’t want her to ever stop playing. I didn’t want her to leave me just yet. It breaks my heart to know I never got the chance to see her play in person. Oh how I wish I could’ve flown down to see her at the Australian Open this year…
Na is the light of my life and I will never forget how much happiness she filled me with. Our time together was cut too short but I learnt so much about what it takes to be a survivor. You will always remain my favourite tennis player.
Because of her, I will always strive to be the bird that sticks out.
Thank you, Na.
More Rafa highlights (in hopes that next year we will be adding to this collection… such a sad day for Rafa fans!!!!)
2014 Grand Slam champions - Men’s Singles.