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China pleased by Wimbledon seeding for Li

The tennis officials has their eyes fixed on the 2008 Olympics after Li Na become the country's first seeded singles player in a grand slam draw.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2006 12:48 IST

Chinese tennis officials were keeping their eyes fixed on the 2008 Olympics Li Na become the country's first seeded singles player in a grand slam draw.

Li was seeded 28th for the Wimbledon championships on the back of her WTA ranking of 30th, a record high for a Chinese singles player.

"We are pleased but not getting carried away, knowing that we are still far from our Olympic goals," a spokesman for the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA) said.

"Our people have very high expectations of the 2008 Games as they are being held in Beijing."

Li, 24, started her sporting career aged five as a badminton player in her native Wuhan. After a year a tennis coach persuaded her parents to allow her to switch to the ball game.

Over the next 14 years she moved through the sports system to the national squad and on to the lower rungs of the professional game before suddenly quitting to go to university in 2002.

"I had been always playing for the others, more in sorrow than in joy," she told Beijing News last year.

In two years at university in her home city, she never once picked up a tennis racket, instead finding an outlet for her athleticism in Taekwondo, table tennis, badminton and dancing.

It was only the intervention of her boyfriend, who said she might one day regret quitting the game, that led her to answer the call from national tennis officials and return to the court in 2004.

Within months, she had become the first Chinese player to win a singles title on the WTA tour with victory as a qualifier in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Since then, Li has made steady progress up the world rankings, breaking into the top 100 in October 2004 and reaching her second WTA final at Estoril in 2005.

A second defeat in the final at Estoril this year, when she withdrew through injury to hand the title to compatriot Zheng Jie, did not stop her march up the rankings.

Reaching the third round of the singles and winning the doubles title with Jelena Jankovic at the Birmingham grasscourt tournament last week gave her a boost ahead of her first appearance in the Wimbledon singles draw.