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Li Na happy to set example for youngsters the hard way

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

16:59, January 04, 2013

China's Li Na returns while playing against Bojana Jovanonski of Serbia in the Shenzhen Gemdale Open quarterfinals on Thursday in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Li won 6-3, 6-3 to reach the semis, where she will face compatriot Peng Shuai. (China Daily/Wu Jun)

The life of a professional tennis player is tough as you never seem completely free to do whatever you like - even in the off-season.

Chinese star Li Na has been active on the pro stage since 1999 and understands the yearly grind and how important it is to stay even-keeled; even during the toughest of times.

"When you are competing at a certain level, people pay equal attention to your off-court life as much as your game," Li said during the Shenzhen Gemdale Open on Wednesday. "That means whatever you do can sometimes affect others, especially the juniors."

"They will get the wrong message if you relax too much. So I know that is something I can't do - even on holidays. I like to put strict demands on myself to let the youngsters know what happens off the court is just as important if you want to be good as a pro."

Alcohol is the first item Li names on her "can't do" list.

Li used to celebrate big wins by sharing a few drinks with friends but she has left that habit behind now.

"I definitely stay away from wine now because I have to do everything to help benefit my profession during the 51-week season."

Her healthy habits have paid off as Li's body remains in prime condition despite her age.

The 30-year-old has been injury free since having surgery on her right knee in 2009 and regularly heads off to Germany in the off-season for specialized fitness training.

"I am lucky that injuries haven't bothered me in recent years. That's because I learnt how to treat my body well, with the help of my team. So, it treats me well in return."

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