Li Na talks about tennis, retirement and her future baby
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) In what she describes as her ”new life,” Li Na is dealing with morning sickness, hoping for a baby girl and dreaming of becoming a housewife. The two-time Grand Slam champion says she will try not to tell her future child that she was once one of the world’s best tennis players.
Not that she regrets a moment of her tennis career. If she could go back, Li wouldn’t change a thing. Her life and career until now, she said, have been ”perfect.”
A day after making a center-court appearance to publicly announce her pregnancy, the recently retired 32-year-old Li reflected on how difficult it was to leave the sport but said that she had been thinking about retirement for a long time and now feels at peace with her decision.
”If I have a next life, I will still choose tennis,” Li told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the Australian Open. ”It was a very tough decision for me to make, to say good-bye to tennis. But I think now I just have to continue to do what I’m doing, to take care of our family.”
Coming back to Melbourne marked a full circle in the life of Li. She returned to the Australian Open on Monday but not to defend her title, instead she came onto center court to announce she and her husband, Jiang Shan, were expecting their first child this summer.
Later, she posted a message on Facebook saying she chose to deliver the baby news on Rod Laver Arena because of the special connection she felt with the Australian crowd. It was here she made her first breakthrough in 2011, becoming the first Asian to reach a Grand Slam final, and where she gained wide popularity with post-match interviews that doubled as stand-up comedy routines peppered with wisecracks about her husband and former coach.
In characteristic good humor, Li told reporters Tuesday that there were upsides to retirement, which she announced in September in the wake of a fourth knee operation.
”At least now I don’t have to answer what goals I have for this year,” Li said, laughing. ”I feel more relaxed. No stressing anymore. Right now, I think I’m much happier.”
Li has kept busy since her retirement – she has been traveling with her husband and making plans to open her own tennis academy in China, where she is credited with single-handedly boosting interest in the sport of tennis. The WTA, which runs the women’s tennis tour, has described Li as a trailblazer in the game and the continent. She became the first Chinese player to win a WTA title, the first to break into the top 20 and the first player from Asia to win a major. She reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 in 2014 before retiring.
For now, the focus will be on family.
”Our new life just started a couple months ago,” she said. ”I still have morning sickness.”
She doesn’t know if it’s a boy or a girl but ”I prefer (a) she,” Li said. Asked if she plans to teach her child how to play tennis, she said only if she was asked.
”I try to don’t tell them I was the tennis player,” she said in broken English and with a straight face. ”It’s pretty simple. I wish them happy and healthy, that’s it.”
”Tennis was my job, it’s not their job you know. I think everyone has (their own) personality,” she said, adding that she highly doubted her husband would be changing diapers but she was OK with that.
”I think my dream is to be a housewife,” she said, adding that they hadn’t planned ahead to have a child. It happened, she snapped her fingers, ”Just like this.”