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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Tennis

Li Na loving life under pressure
AFP
London, June 28, 2013
First Published: 11:33 IST(28/6/2013)
Last Updated: 11:35 IST(28/6/2013)

China's Li Na said she relished the pressure of having the world's most populous nation behind her as she battles for glory at Wimbledon 2013.

The 31-year-old is the third-highest seed left in the draw after Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani tumbled out early.

And Li said the weight of Chinese expectation on her shoulders was only making her tougher.

"I like the pressure," the 2011 French Open champion said.

"The people without pressure, how they can live? I mean, the pressure makes me stronger. I can prove myself, as well."

But she said the whole nation was not counting on her to win Wimbledon purely because some bigger names have tumbled.

"Why I should carry for the whole country? I'm only a tennis athlete. Only a tennis player. I try as best as I can on the court. This is my job," she said.

Nonetheless, the sixth seed said she was not losing sleep about becoming the next big name to stumble at the All England Club, after a string of top players in both were either knocked out or succumbed to injury.

"Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour!", she said.

"I know this is bad, but I have to say it's worse for Wimbledon, for history, because many big stars are out of the tournament, and also so many pulled out due to injury.

"So of course I was sad, but the same time I got some information because I really do not want to be the next one out.

"The Grand Slams are very tough tournaments. It is the same for everyone. Everyone has the chance to be the champion."

Li faces Czech 32nd seed Klara Zakopalova in the third round. The Chinese won the last two of their four encounters, including in the Shenzhen final earlier this year.

"I played her beginning of the year, first tournament in China, in the final. She plays more flat on the grass court. So I think it's a pretty good surface for her," Li said.

Li made the last 32 by overcoming the in-form Simona Halep 6-2, 1-6, 6-0 in a roller-coaster match on Thursday.

Halep, the world number 32, was the toughest possible second round opponent for a seed, with her high ranking and impressive 11-match winning run.

Li is one of the women aged over 30 in the draw, though she is still some way behind Kimiko Date-Krumm, who at 42 will take on defending champion Serena Williams in the third round.

The Japanese made the last 32 at Wimbledon for the first time since her run to the semi-finals 17 years ago.

"She's doing an amazing job. At least I'm not oldest one," joked Li.

"So many people start to ask her about her age, about when she will retire. So I really hate this one, because right now I'm feeling I can play well on the court, and also I am feeling healthy. So I really love the tennis life."


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