Na prepares for Wimbledon with visit to mom
Who can a woman turn to when everything falls apart? Her mother of course even if, in Li Na's case, that necessitated a 12-hour flight from Paris to China after her early exit at the French Open at the end of May.
Even though Wimbledon is not her most successful tournament, world No 6 Li said she was feeling relaxed on Monday (June 17)at Eastbourne, on England's south coast, before's grasscourt grand slam, thanks to the flying visit home to her mother.
Li Na said she needed to relax so she returned to China.
The 31-year-old Li would not normally fly home to Wuhan until after Wimbledon but gave in to a desire to spend time with her mother.
"When I unlocked the door my mum was like: 'What are you doing here?' so I said: 'Mum, I just wanted to see you, say hi, have dinner, like blah blah..."
Li had left Paris berating herself for losing in the second round to American Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the end of last month at a tournament where she won in 2011 to become Asia's first grand-slam champion.
Lying in until 1030 in the morning, enjoying home cooking and spending time with friends in coffee shops put her right and Li was all smiles in Eastbourne, where she is seeded second.
Tennis was not even a subject of discussion with her mother, she said, with her mother professing not to watch her matches as it made her nervous.
"She was pretty happy (to see me), it doesn't matter to her if I am doing well or doing badly," Li added.
Twice an Australian Open finalist, Li has never done better than the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, in 2006 and 2010, and lost in the second round last year.
She advanced through the first round at Eastbourne on Tuesday (June 18) with a 6-2 6-4 defeat of Alize Cornet of France. She faces another Frenchwoman, Marion Bartoli, in the second round.
"I really try as much as I can on court," Li Na said, describing grass as a "good challenge for yourself".
The No 1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, runner-up at Wimbledon last year, did not fare so well, being eliminated by Jamie Hampton of USA 7-6 6-2 in the first round.
"Big Sister Na", as she is known at home, has long cut a lonely figure in Chinese tennis, with only Peng Shuai, ranked 24th, and Zheng Jie, 47th, also in the world's top 110 women players.
Things might, however, soon change, she said.
"I see a lot of very good juniors, you know, junior players. How do you say, I think right now they go out to play some opponents but they still have a lower ranking so they could not play high level tournaments. So we still have to give them time to grow up."