China jubilant after Li Na makes history
Chinese media and web users rejoiced on Thursday after Li Na beat world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open semi-finals to become the first Asian woman to reach a Grand Slam final.
The 28-year-old Li, in her second straight semi-final appearance in Melbourne, triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 over the 20-year-old Dane, overcoming her nerves and a spate of errors to clinch the historic win.
"It's a miracle! She saved a match point and turned it around!" gushed a sports writer on popular web portal qq.com, just above a photo of a smiling Li pumping her fist in victory.
"Entering a Grand Slam final for the first time in history opens a new page in Chinese tennis."
Li's victory was broadcast live on China Central Television. The state network then carried multiple reports about the success of the world number 11, who will return to the top 10 when the new WTA rankings come out next week.
Li will face three-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters in Saturday's final.
"That was really not easy," one online user said on the website of Titan Sports Weekly, a top sporting website. "I was so nervous watching the match I only ate after it finished."
"When her opponent won the first set, my heart skipped a beat. Na Na, you're the best, congratulations -- you are the pride of the Chinese people," another netizen said on web portal 163.com.
"I'm convinced you can win the title, and watching how you go on the offensive, there's simply no one that can resist you."
Li, China's outspoken number one, also reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2010, her breakthrough year when she reached the top 10 for the first time.
The right-hander from Wuhan also remains unbeaten in 2011 after winning this month's Sydney International, when she shocked Clijsters in the final.
Internet users in China praised Li for her perseverance.
"If it had been me, I would have collapsed in the second set. I was so gripped, so moved, tears flowed freely," one Internet user said on sina.com.
"I've heard the Chinese Tennis Association has never liked Li Na, and they even once suppressed her because she has too much character."
Li is known in China for being outspoken. Close to two years ago, she called for an overhaul of the nation's famously rigid sports programme to give other athletes the right to pursue their careers without strict government controls.
At the time, she had already won the right to manage her own career and keep a greater share of her prize money -- as had other top-ranked Chinese female tennis players -- following repeated protests.
On Thursday, Li joked that the thought of the US $2.18 million in prize money inspired her fightback in the semi-final, and put her slow start down to a sleepless night caused by her husband-coach Jiang Shan's snoring.