Australian Open: Ten years after Li Na: Zheng Qinwen fights for the title

Ten years after China's tennis idol Li Na won the title, Zheng Qinwen wants to emulate her role model at the Australian Open.

Australian Open: Ten years after Li Na: Zheng Qinwen fights for the title

Ten years after China's tennis idol Li Na won the title, Zheng Qinwen wants to emulate her role model at the Australian Open. The 21-year-old will challenge defending champion Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus in the final in Melbourne this Saturday (9.30 a.m. CET/Eurosport).

Healing time for the “Golden Flower Zheng,” was the headline in the “Chinese Sports Newspaper.” At the Australian Open, the 21-year-old Chinese had a good start, but also a hopeless low, it said. "But when she just stands on the court, this woman becomes a warrior who never gives up," the paper wrote.

Li Na made tennis popular in China

In the biggest match of her tennis career so far, Zheng Qinwen is a clear outsider. But with the support of two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na, the world number 15 has the courage to pull off a surprise. "She told me not to think too much," Zheng Qinwen said of an exchange with Li Na, who triumphed on the Yarra River in 2014 and delighted audiences with her funny interviews.

Li Na has not lost her funny nature and her mischief to this day. When Zheng Qinwen was giving interviews on the terrace of the media center after her third-round victory, Li Na sneaked up from the side and nudged her compatriot in the back. It was the first personal meeting between the two. "She looks even better than on TV," Zheng Qinwen said afterwards.

When Li Na won the final against Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova ten years ago, Zheng Qinwen watched the game as a fan in a tennis club in her home country. "That was a very special moment," she said of Li Na's triumph. "She gave many Chinese children courage and hope. From that moment on, I dreamed of being in the final here one day."

China is an important market for tennis

Li Na's successes have made tennis really popular among children and young people in China. The giant empire is now reaping the rewards. There are currently seven players from China in the top 100.

Zheng Qinwen's successes come at a good time for the WTA women's organization. China is an important market for the tennis business. But first the coronavirus pandemic made business more difficult, then the Peng Shuai case meant that there were no more tournaments in China.

Peng Shuai accused a high-ranking Chinese politician of sexual abuse on the social network Weibo in November 2021. The post was deleted soon after. Peng later denied making the allegations. The mystery of how the former world-class player is doing after the allegations remains unsolved. Nevertheless, the WTA returned to China last year, even if there was still no meeting with Peng Shuai.

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