14:19, September 29, 2009
IMG Worldwide, the premier sports, entertainment and media company, announced on Monday that it had signed Li Na, Asia and China's number one tennis player, as a client.
Na, 27, reached the quarterfinals in the just concluded U.S. Open in New York. In previous U.S. Open campaigns Na twice reached the fourth round.
Li Na, a native of Wuhan, Hubei, China, started playing tennis when she was nine and in 1998 won the prestigious Asian Youth Cup. She began her professional career in 1999, and in 2006 became the first Chinese player to reach the top 30 and then the top 20.
In the same year at Wimbledon, she became the first Chinese woman to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal. She attained her highest world ranking of No. 16 in 2007.
"We are very pleased to have Li Na as an IMG client," said Max Eisenbud, IMG senior vice president who will mange Li Na and is also the long time manager of Maria Sharapova.
"She has been one of the most successful players in China's history and in 2009 became Asia and China's No. 1 player with a world ranking of No. 16. She has been largely hailed as being instrumental in advancing the sport within China," Mr. Eisenbud said.
Fernando Soler, Head of Global IMG Tennis added, "Li Na is a very talented athlete with tremendous potential, we are thrilled she has chosen IMG to represent her. Her signing further demonstrates IMG' s commitment in China and our belief that Asia is maybe one of the dramatic growth areas for the next generation of tennis superstars who will be able to compete for the world's biggest championships."
Between 1999 and 2004, Li Na won 20 singles titles: 19 ITF events and one -- the first ever WTA Tour singles title by a Chinese woman in Guangzhou. In January 2008, she won her second WTA Tour title. She has also enjoyed success as a doubles player with two WTA Tour doubles titles.
One of the highlights of her career came last year, at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where she reached the semifinals by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Willams.