Li Na: The power behind the smile

Author : Richard Talbot
Li Na

Li Na’s charming smile and thrilling tennis game have made her an international sports star.

Over the last two years, Li Na has become a tennis superstar adored by both her native China and the western world.

When you think about it, that’s an incredibly impressive achievement. From the entertainment world to sports, no star has achieved success in both the East and West like the Chinese tennis star.

Some tennis commentators point to her intriguing playing style and smile as reasons for her success, but there’s more to it than that: unlike many other international tennis stars, Li Na seems to ‘get’ the West in a way that other players can’t.

At the same time, she helps us Western tennis fans ‘get’ China – a country that, for most of us, is as different as it could possibly be. Li Na is as much an icon to fans in the western world as she is to young girls in China.

Think all the praise is a little unrealistic? Think again. Earlier this year, Li Na was a cover feature for Time Magazine, who praised both her quirky look and playing style, and her unique beauty. She was one of the magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People – an honour that’s incredibly rare for international sports stars.

If popularity is anything to go by, she certainly deserves the praise. At the French Open, over 116 million people tuned in to watch her walk away with the first and only Grand Slam victory by an Asian tennis player. UK tennis fans have flocked to buy corporate Wimbledon Debenture tickets* to view the international star in action.

Many of those viewers, by the way, weren’t located in China. In fact, Li Na’s slight rebellion against some Chinese customs – clashing with sports organisations and her interest in tattoos – make her a unique icon in a country that’s known for its focus on going with the crowd.

At 31 years of age, Li Na is one of the world’s top tennis stars. She deserved a Major victory in this year’s Australian Open – but there’s the future for that. She made it all the way to the semifinals of the US Open. At Wimbledon, she fought all the way to the quarterfinals three times, including the most recent tournament.

With Chinese tourism on the rise, hosting the nation’s biggest tennis star isn’t just a victory for sports, but a major ‘win’ for tourism. While many other tennis stars have let fame and fortune turn them into manufactured figures, Li Na has kept things nice and simple, letting her humanity shine through in her ever-present smile.

*Debenture tickets give you the best experience of the tournament. All of the debenture seating is in a prime location at the same level as the Royal Box and include lounge passes giving you access to exclusive lounges for the duration of the day.