Saturday, June 04, 2011

2011 FRENCH OPEN: Li Na Wins Historic 1st Major

Li Na of China made history on Saturday in Paris by becoming the first tennis player (male or female) from the most populous country in the world to win a major title. Li defeated defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4 7-6(0)  by hitting through the court on both wings, ending with 28 groundstroke winners and only 24 errors.

Li served extremely well, with 3 aces and a stellar 77% of first serves in the box. In the first set, she hit the ball extremely hard and deep on both sides and just needed one break of serve to take the set without facing a breakpoint herself. In the second set, Li broke early again and held to go up 3-1. Li had points for 4-1 and 5-2 to put the match out of reach but blinked both times, allowing the wily 30-year-old veteran to seize the opportunity to get back into the match when Schiavone broke back and held to reach 5-4. Li was barely able to hold her next service game but she was clearly tightening up with only her net play keeping her in the set as the depth of her shot lessened considerably. At 5-6, deuce with Li serving she hit a forehand cross-court deep into the corner which was called out but the umpire checked the mark and despite Schiavone's protests called the ball good, denying the Italian her chance for a set point. Schiavone lost the next point and the game, resulting in a tiebreaker where she failed to win a point, giving Li the set and match.

Li will be #4 in the World on Monday, and has played in both major finals this year. The 29-year-old's game is best suited to the fast hard courts and she has good success on grass. Her ranking should only go up for the rest of the year. How high can she go?

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