Asia scores first Grand Slam win
Distracted, Li stopped and let the ball drop. The words of support were in Mandarin: “Jia you!’’ - which loosely translates to “Let’s go!’’ After so many years of “Come on’’ and “Vamos,’’ there’s a new language on the tennis landscape.
Li became the first Chinese player, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam singles title by beating defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 7-6 (0) at Roland Garros on Saturday. The sixth-seeded Li used powerful ground strokes to compile a 31-12 edge in winners and won the last nine points of the match, a run that began when the fifth-seeded Schiavone was flustered by a line call.
“China tennis - we’re getting bigger and bigger,’’ said Li, who is projected to rise to a career-best No. 4 in Monday’s Women’s Tennis Association rankings.
She already was the first woman from that nation of more than 1 billion people to win a WTA singles title, the first to enter the top 10 in the rankings and the first to make it to a Grand Slam final.
She broke away from the Chinese government’s sports system in late 2008 under a reform policy for tennis players dubbed “Fly Alone.’’ Li was given the freedom to choose her own coach and to keep much more of her earnings: previously, she turned over 65 percent to the authorities; now it’s 12 percent. That comes to about $205,000 of the $1.7 million French Open winner’s check.
“We took a lot of risks with this reform,” said Sun Jinfang, an official with the Chinese Tennis Association.
At her news conference, Li wore a new T-shirt with Chinese characters that mean “sport changes everything,’’ and offered thanks to Sun. “Without her reform, then possibly we wouldn’t have achieved this success,’’ Li said.
When a reporter mentioned the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and asked whether her victory could spark a sports revolution, Li said she’s “just’’ a tennis player and added, “I don’t need to answer ... this question.’’
Her tennis game, filled with flat forehands and backhands, looks better-built for hard courts, rather than the slow, red clay of Paris. But Li’s movement on clay is better now, Schiavone explained, saying: “She slides a little bit more.’’
Li repeatedly set up points with her backhand then closed them with her forehand and she finished with 21 winners from the baseline, 15 more than Schiavone. Only after Li controlled the first set and the early part of the second did Schiavone begin working her way into the match. She broke to 4-all in the second and held to lead 6-5. The 12th game was pivotal.
Serving at deuce, Li smacked a backhand that landed near a sideline but initially was called out by a line judge, which would have given Schiavone a set point. But Li began walking up to take a closer look at the mark left in the clay by the shot. Chair umpire Louise Engzell climbed down to examine it, too. She told Schiavone the ball touched the line. Schiavone leaned forward and pointed at the spot in question, discussing the ruling with Engzell; the restless crowd began whistling and jeering, as French Open spectators often do when a player vigorously questions a call. Engzell’s call stood and eventually she returned to her perch.
Schiavone wouldn’t win another point. “That ball was out,’’ she said later. “Sure, you get angry. ... So what do you do?”
Li is 29 and Schiavone turns 31 later this month, making for the oldest combined ages of French Open women’s finalists since 1986.
Perhaps that’s why neither of them appeared to be too shaken by what was at stake or the setting - until the latter stages.
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
메이저 첫 아시아인, 그녀 이름은 리나
프랑스오픈 여자단식 우승 … 테니스 새 역사 썼다
중국 여자테니스의 대들보 리나(29·세계랭킹 7위)가 아시아 국가 출신 선수로는 처음으로 메이저대회 단식 정상에 올랐다.
리나는 4일(한국시간) 파리의 스타드 롤랑가로에서 열린 프랑스오픈 여자 단식 결승에서 지난해 챔피언 프란체스카 스키아보네(세계랭킹 5위·이탈리아)를 세트 스코어 2-0(6-4, 7-6(0))으로 제압했다. 아시아 국가 선수로서 메이저대회에서 우승한 선수는 리나가 처음이다. 중국계의 마이클 창(39)이 1989년 프랑스오픈 남자 단식을 제패했지만 미국 국적이었다. 리나는 개척자다. 그가 무엇을 이룩하든 모두 ‘최초’였다. 82년 우한에서 태어난 리나는 아버지의 영향으로 6세 때 배드민턴 라켓을 잡았다가 테니스에 더 재능이 있다는 코치의 권유에 따라 9세 때 테니스로 전향했다.
97년 중국 국가대표가 된 리나는 대학 공부를 하느라 2년 동안 코트를 떠났다. 그러나 2004년 복귀해 그해 10월 광저우에서 열린 WTA 투어에서 중국인 최초로 우승을 차지하며 이름을 알렸다. 랭킹 10위 이내 진입도, 메이저대회 단식 결승 진출(2010년 호주오픈)도 그가 처음이었다.
리나는 “꿈이 이뤄졌다”며 “호주오픈 땐 경험이 없어 긴장했다. 이번엔 한 번 메이저대회 결승을 치르고 왔기 때문에 자신감이 있었다”고 웃었다. 중국 공영방송 CC-TV는 “전 세계 테니스팬에게 깊은 인상을 남긴 우승”이라고 보도했다.
리나의 메이저대회 정상 등극으로 중국 테니스는 세계 중심에 우뚝 섰다. 리나와 스키아보네의 결승이 열린 스타드 롤랑가로에는 중국 팬들이 몰려 “자유(加油)”를 외쳐댔다. AP통신은 “그동안 메이저대회 결승전에선 ‘Come on’이나 ‘Allez’ ‘Vamos’ 등 영어·스페인어·프랑스어 응원 구호가 많았지만 중국어 응원이 새롭게 등장했다”고 분위기를 전했다.