Congratulations to Li Na of Wuhan, China, who has become the first Chinese player (man or woman) in history to win a Grand Slam singles tennis title, capturing the 2011 French Open today on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros inParis.
Li, 29, defeated defending champion Francesca Schiavone, 30, of Italy in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (7-0).
While the second set was more of a challenge, Li’s performance was amazing, serving at 76 percent, winning 69 percent of points on her second serve, and smacking 31 winners, dictating play throughout and pinning Schiavone back and neutralizing her impressive court coverage and net game.
I love Li Na, and I could not be happier for her. To me, she is the most elegant, classy and gracious player on the WTA, and I love her game. She can make every shot, hits the ball hard and flat, moves extremely well and has a good serve.
While she is happiest camping on the base line, hitting the ball with great pace and extreme precision – teasing all the lines, finding each corner and producing amazing angles – she plays the net well, too. She is fast, graceful, powerful and a thrill to watch.
Strong is Beautiful
The timing is great for Li Na and many of her fellow players, who are featured in a Women’s Tennis Association new ad campaign: “Strong is Beautiful,” which launched last month, ostensibly aimed at trying to attract more male fans.
The movie quality videos feature dry ice and wind machines blowing done-up hair and dresses over svelte figures of WTA stars, while they blast serves or drive ground strokes toward the camera.
While the videos have sparked a little controversy, I like the idea of glamourizing the WTA stars. These women are amazing athletes, so it’s nice that they have a chance to show the world their feminine side. But let’s not miss an opportunity here. As long as the women are sporting makeup, have their hair done, and are wearing dresses or skirts, why not put them in pantyhose and high heels? So far, the videos I’ve seen have them decked out, but still wearing tennis shoes.
I’m reminded that one of my polls a couple of years ago on this blog asked: “Which Celebrity do you most want to see in Pantyhose?” We got some great answers – all the usual suspects, but one name was added by a voter under the “Other” category – he or she wrote in Jelena Jankovic. I thought that was cute, but I had to agree.
Jelena is one of the most feminine players on the WTA, and she does like to do “girly” when she’s off the court. She particularly loves high heels. I’d love to see Jelena in pantyhose.
While Li Na has a lovely figure, you can see she is strong, with muscles that have been honed during a long career.
And you can’t help but notice Na has great legs.
When I decided to make this blog post about Li Na, I did a Google search for images of Na, hoping to find at least one pic of her in which she was dressed formally, figuring I could show her to you in pantyhose and high heels. No such luck.
[See July 2012 update and photo at end of post.]
Athletes and Pantyhose
As cool as it is to see photos of actresses and other celebrities wearing pantyhose when they don’t have to, such as when they’re out and about, making promotional appearances or attending a special event, it might be even neater to see professional athletes lose the tennis shoes once in a while in favor of high heels and pantyhose.
I love this photo of recently-retired WTA star Elena Dimentieva. I always thought she was one of the more feminine-looking WTA players, but I had no idea she could look this amazing.
Then, there are the professional athletes who wear pantyhose as an integral part of their outfit.
One such group is professional figure skaters.
Figure skating is a beautiful and graceful sport. Similar to tennis, the combination of the power, grace and beauty of the athletes makes the sport a pleasure to watch, but could you imagine figure skaters not wearing pantyhose?
More than with any other sport, figure skating costumes are decidedly delicate and ultra feminine, and pantyhose are so important to the look of figure skaters.
It is my hope that since female figure skaters are introduced to the positive and glamorous aspects of pantyhose at an early age, they will go on to wear more often in their personal lives.
Another group of professional athletes who wear pantyhose as an integral part of their outfits is the cheerleaders of the NFL and NBA?
In the case of cheerleaders for NFL teams in hot weather climates, such as Florida, I greatly respect those ladies who understand that pantyhose are so essential to their look, even though they have to routinely perform in near-100 degree temperatures.
By contrast, so many women gripe that it’s too hot to wear pantyhose, even though they are spending the majority of their time in air-conditioned office buildings, usually sitting. How sad.
Back to Li Na
I was always a Jelena Jankovic fan, until I saw my first Li Na match in January of this year. It was just prior to the Australian Open. Li faced Kim Clijsters of Belgium in a tuneup event in Sydney, Australia before the Australia Open in Melbourne the following week. Na was down 5-0 in the first set, but came back to win that set (7-5) and the next, capturing her first major title, on the way to becoming the first-ever Asian player to make it to a Grand Slam event – the Australian Open.
I loved everything about her: The way she strikes the ball, her confidence and courage in constructing points, and her beautiful movement on the court. Seeing her play a few times, I was won over. I officially became a Li Na fan (sorry, Jelena), and have been cheering for her ever since. I was sorry to see her lose in the Australian Open, but was thrilled in the process to learn, along with the entire tennis world, much about Li Na. (I still like Jelena and want her to win, but not if she comes up against Li Na.)
As Li was making tennis history, the pre- and post-match interviews came, and we all got to see another side of the totally focused and intense player Li is on the court. That’s when I came to love Na. What a sweet, cute and funny personality she is! We learned that she is very popular in the locker room and a favorite among other players.
During a postgame interview after Li’s semifinal win in Sydney, an interviewer asked Li what it was like having her husband as her coach (at that time), and what he gave her that was motivational? Li’s answer: “Credit card.” She said that with a big smile to a roar of laughter from the crowd. Apparently, Na gets to go shopping after each match she wins. Then, the interviewer asked her if she was going to watch tape of her next opponent. Li’s answer: “I think that husband’s job. I’m going to lie in bed and watch TV.” Again, the crowd roared with laughter. During another interview, Li was asked about how rested she was for an upcoming match, and again, Li cracked everyone up by imitating her husband’s snoring.
If Na weren’t so lovely, graceful and an absolute powerhouse on the court, her cute personality and sense of humor alone would have gained her legions of new fans.
But it’s even more than all that. Na is a very kind and caring person. I’ve read that there have been many cases in which she donated all her prize money from a winning a match to earthquake victims, or for orphanages in China.
One thing I admire about Na is she never loses her temper, throws a racket or argues about bad calls.
At times, she gets a bit flustered (at herself), but she doesn’t let it cost her a match. And when her forehand deserts her or she disappears during a few games, she trusts and believes in herself, and she continues to play her style of high-risk/high-reward, all-out tennis.
Leading up to the final, Li played brilliantly against three powerhouses, who none of the “experts” gave her a chance to beat. First, she overcame dropping a first set (I think 6-1) to Petra Kvitova, who has a monster serve and booming ground strokes. I was so proud of Li for coming back and winning the next two sets convincingly. Then, it was Victoria Azarenka, who everyone said had too much power for Li. But Na took her down in straight sets. Finally, no one gave Li much of a chance against Maria Sharapova, with her power, serve and experience, but Na dispatched her in straight sets, too.
I kept talking to the TV, telling Li: “If you come back (from down one set to Kvitova), and win this match, your legend in China will be off the charts.” And I said the same types of things during the Azarenka and Sharapova matches.
Still, I think everyone expected Schiavone to win the French Open. They thought Schiavone’s experience, her scrambling ability, variety of shots with topspin and slices and net play, not to mention that she had won the event last year, would frustrate Li. But Li was cool, calm and focused, and she seemed from the outset like she was on a mission.
Because of the excellent coverage on Tennis Channel on DirecTV, I was able to take advantage of the French Open Mix, in which viewers can choose to watch up to six matches at a time. I got up each morning at 5 a.m. the past 10 days so that I could see each of Li’s matches.
I am so proud of Na. I was standing, cheering, applauding and holding my breath during many rallies. I’ve never been so engaged as a tennis fan. It was like watching NFL games.
Having won the French Open, Li Na will now be ranked Number 4 in the world – yet another record for China.
Congratulations, Li Na. You deserve this win. You are a true champion, not just in China, but throughout the tennis world.
I am absolutely thrilled for you.
Update July 2012
Unlike with traditional newspaper or magazine stories, one of the beauties of a blog is the ability to edit at any time a story that’s already been published. If you follow the WTA, you know Li Na hasn’t enjoyed much (or any) success since her history-making victory in the 2011 French Open.
I’m no fair-weather fan, and I still love Li Na. I watch every match of her’s I can find, which is like none lately. Amazing how not winning can get one bounced off the TV schedule. Of course the exception is the majors, and as a DirecTV customer with the Tennis Channel, I was able to see Li’s matches in this year’s Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.
They were hard to watch, as Li was knocked out of each tournament way too early, and it killed me to see how the immense pressure that being a newly-minted rock star in Asia and the world affected Na’s psyche, as has the toll of being a $50 million endorser for the likes of Mercedes Benz, Haagen-Dazs and other international brands. It broke my heart to watch match after match where Na was a point or two away from winning, but struggled to put an opponent away, only to watch that opponent mount a comeback for the win.
I’ll say this though: No one beats Li Na except Li Na. She still is far and away the more talented player on the court, but her nerves seemingly are shot. The only match I saw where she looked like her championship self was in the final of this year’s Melbourne tuneup match to the Australian Open, this time against Maria Sharapova. That match turned into a tightly-contested marathon in which both players had numerous chances to win. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted Na to win this one. I felt like she really needed it.
Soon, it’ll be time for the final major of the 2012 season – the U.S. Open in New York. It’s a hardcourt surface, which suits Li’s game well, so I will be glued to my big screen TV, hoping, wishing and shouting encouragement to my tennis hero.
Other than my posts that feature a celebrity receiving our Grizzly Award for being anti-pantyhose and in favor of today’s ugly “bear”-legs movement, this post I originally wrote in June 2011 remained the only one that really wasn’t about pantyhose. Of course, I finagled a pantyhose angle by throwing in a bit about professional athletes in pantyhose. But, hard as I tried, I could not find one picture of Li Na wearing pantyhose. In most cases, that would have discouraged me from writing the post, but I was so thrilled that my new favorite WTA player had just won her first major, I had to do it.
Then, an entire year after this post was published, one of our readers, phish, wrote a comment last month proudly attaching a link with a picture he’d found of Li Na wearing pantyhose.
You’ll see what he wrote in the Comments section below: In part, it reads: “Happened upon your blog and saw this post about Li Na and that, sadly, you hadn’t found any pics of her in hose. Well, here you go!”
Talk about worth the wait. Wow. Li Na looks so beautiful in this picture. I really wish she would wear more often. She studied journalism at a university in China, so maybe when she retires from tennis, she’ll become a journalist, or perhaps a commentator for the WTA. If so, she’s professional and classy enough that she likely would wear dresses, skirts and suits with high heels and pantyhose.
Today, I thanked phish again for this photo of Li Na, and this is what he told me:
“When I saw that you had an entire article about Li Na, but without any photos of her in hosiery, I took it as a challenge to find some. Fortunately, I found that set, but unfortunately, that’s the only one I could find out there. Sorry!”
I love it when my readers participate in my blog by leaving comments about my different posts, and especially, when they make it their mission to help us all by doing the impossible in some cases, and finding rare and treasured photos, such as this one of Li Na in pantyhose.
There, this blog post is justified now.