Li Na, making history, hits the headlines

Jun 3, 2011

Li Na, making history, hits the headlines.
Li Na's career has been all about making tennis history, both nationally and internationally.

The girl from Wuhan has been a record-breaker sincethe early days of her career, racking up an impressive number of "firsts".

She was the first Chinese woman to win a WTA tournament, at Guangzhou in 2004, the first to make the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon in 2006, and the first to make the top 30, in June 2006.

Further records would follow, as she entered the top20 in the world in August 2006 and the top 10, in February 2010.

2011 has seen more of the same for Li Na, who turned 29 on 26 February. She became the first Asian woman to make the finals of aGrand Slam at the Australian Open, and has repeated the feat here in Paris. By making it to the final, she can expect to see herself ranked one of the world's top five players - another first.

65 million viewers

This impressive track record is causing a stir outside tennis circles. In China, Li Na's exploits are all over the headlines. Her win over Maria Sharapova on Thursday was the main news story on the three major Chinese news portals: most popular), 163.comand On her Weibo page (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), Li Na told her 1,712,732 followers that she was working her way towards a Grand Slam title.

Li has also attracted hordes of viewers on Chinese television. Her semi-final match against Sharapova, broadcast live on CCTV-5 from 8.02pm to 10.06pm local time, attracted an average of 14 million viewers. A total of 65 million viewers saw the match, with the audience peaking at 25 million in the last set.

As far as tennis audiences in 2011 are concerned, these figures are second only to the Australian Open final, which attracted an average of 17.8 million viewers.

Given that the Melbourne semi-final "only" attracted 9.3 million viewers, it is highly likely that the French Open final will break more records.

Li Na is also making the headlines in the Chinese press. On Friday, she was the China Daily's main news story, a rare feat for a sporting event. And the saga continues…