Tears flowed with good reason during an emotional farewell ceremony for Li Na at the China Open in Beijing. After all, the 32-year-old two time Grand Slam singles champion was forced to retire after ongoing knee injuries proved too much for the popular Wuhan native.
Retirement for a tennis player is never easy. Especially when injury forces your hand sooner than you would like. Li, after going through surgery on her left knee this summer, decided her body couldn’t go through any more “pounding” after so many years on tour.
World No. 1 Serena Williams, who couldn’t attend the ceremony, said about her fellow competitor. “She’s an amazing player. She’s done so much for over a billion people. I don’t think I have impacted that many people…What she’s done for our sport, the sport I play in, is really second to none.”
Joy and pain remains the theme for Li. Told, or if you want to look at it, forced by Chinese officials as a young child into tennis after starting out in badminton, Li persevered. Even more so after her father’s death as teenager. That event focused Li to become even better at tennis, if only to help support her mother.
Li Na certainly has earned more praise and more money that she probably ever thought she would in her lifetime. A new start as a mother looks very likely in the near future. But tennis players and fans worldwide will definitely miss seeing her spirit, her humor and her presence on the courts. We can only hope that Li will keep on inspiring many during the next part of her journey.
Perhaps Neil Young’s lyrics to his classic song say it best,
“Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun
Long may you run.”