French Open winner Li Na honored by government

08:48, July 06, 2011      

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French Open champion Li Na has been officially honored by the government for her unprecedented feat as the first Chinese to win a tennis grand slam title.

Li, from Hubei province, was named the Hubei Pioneer by the provincial government on Monday and set as a role model. Li also pocketed a 600,000 yuan check (92,000 U.S. dollars), reportedly the same amount awarded to an Olympic champion from Hubei in 2008.

Li was grateful for what she had.

"I truly felt that my success belongs not to myself but to the country. Without the support from the government, the society and all my coaches, I would not have done this," said the 30-year-old.

Li became the favorite sport figure in China after she lifted the French Open trophy in June in Paris. Her history-making victory in the world professional sport brings her to overtake well-known NBA Houston Rockets center Yao Ming as the nation's top sports personality.

Li was among a group of outstanding women's tennis players, including fellow WTA player Peng Shuai and Zheng Jie, to wave goodbye to the state-run training and competition system to become an independent professional in 2009.

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