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Li Na 'playing herself' in 2012 as compatriots pale


08:02, December 20, 2012

In a year of surprises, from Roger Federer's 17th grand slam and Andy Murray's first major victory to Serena Williams' golden slam, the biggest story with Chinese tennis was still Li Na playing herself in 2012.

The superstar, who became the first Chinese player to win a grand slam title at the French Open last year, has been flying the Chinese flag in world tennis and will possibly do it in years to come.

Despite great efforts, Li's compatriots hardly took any inspiration from her or made breakthroughs in the past season.

In a country gradually warming to tennis, Li is still in a class of her own or "playing myself" as mentioned in her bestselling autobiography.

Her Chinese language autobiography entitled Du Zi Shang Chang, which literally means "Playing Myself", was published this summer. It shows her path to superstardom wasn't at all easy. "I hope my story can inspire people of all ages," she said during her book signing in Beijing.

After the French Open triumph, Li had struggled to adjust to her new status as a major champion. For almost a year, she had not won a tournament and even found it hard to reach a final.

"I must handle the pressure coming from the expectations of more than a billion people back home in China, and it was very hard," Li said in her autobiography.

Li's title drought this season was finally ended after she hired new coach Carlos Rodriguez. In her first tournament after joining forces with him, she reached the final in Montreal. The next week she won an event in Cincinnati.

Li's surge towards the end of the 2012 season reached a climax when she was back into top eight elite and qualified for the season-ending WTA Championships.

The 30-year-old's slam-winning feat had been expected to spur the development of tennis in China, but given the performances of her compatriots in the past season, there's still seems to be a long way to go.

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