Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Thrill of the Match

We've been glued to our TV sets for the past few days watching China's top women's tennis players, Zheng Jie and Li Na reach the semifinals of the Australian Open.

While 17th ranked Zheng Jie had no problems taking out Russian Maria Kirilenko, I thought world No. 16 Li Na would have no chance against Venus Williams. She proved me wrong.

Li had the exact attitude for the match -- play good tennis and fight for every point. At first she was very nervous, but in the second set she turned things around at 2-4. She started taking advantage of Venus' every mistake which cost her dearly in terms of unforced errors and turned it into her advantage. It was an amazing win to watch and we all relished her well-fought victory 2-6, 7-6, 7-5 with her.

"It's the best day of my whole life," said an exuberant Li. "It's so exciting, maybe I'll have a beer tonight," she said with a smile.

But the fairytale run for these two Chinese players came to an end today.

Today Li had a tough opponent -- defending champion Serena Williams which is intimidating in itself. Her sister was watching in the crowd.

However, Li did not let this phase her and continued on the same game plan, playing as well as she could. She kept up with Serena throughout the match, with 7-6, 7-6. It was only in the tiebreaker in the second set was when Li was not able to hang on, and instead Serena powered to a strong finish with an ace at the end.

Just keeping up with Serena was a feat in itself that should be applauded despite the loss.

"I had so many match points that I blew and I knew on my serve I had to close it out because she never gives up," Williams said after the match. "She is a real fighter."

What a compliment.

But despite Li's long drawn-out match, it did not inspire her fellow compatriot Zheng to continue the fight.

She seemed to be too nervous or lost her rhythm or any hope of winning, as she was quickly defeated by Justin Henin 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes.

Apparently Li is known for her tenaciousness, something missing from Zheng.

Li's attitude is a reminder of another Chinese player, Michael Chang, who, while he was a one-hit wonder only winning the French Open, he refused to give up and despite his small size he worked fast around the court.

Nevertheless, Zheng and Li have definitely trail-blazed their way at the Australian Open and tennis fans won't forget their names anytime soon.

1 comment:

ks said...

both li na and zheng jie make us proud. they gave an impressive showing at the australian open. good work. carry on. china will be on the score board in many other sports in the world stage-tennis, golf, ice hockey, the years to come.