Li Na praises coach ahead of Madrid Masters

Updated: 2013-05-04 03:52


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MADRID - Chinese tennis star Li Na arrives at the Madrid Tennis Masters in a positive frame of mind after a successful start to the season.

The 32-year-old world number five began the year in fine form as she reached the final of the Australian Open and warmed up for Madrid by reaching final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, before succumbing to Maria Sharapova.

Speaking to the press in Madrid she put part of the reason for her excellent form on the work she has been carrying out with coach Carlos Rodriguez, who had previously worked with Justin Henin.

"I have been feeling pretty good from beginning of the year," said Li Na, who added she had been working very hard with Rodriguez and who will be with her in Spain.

"He didn't come with me in Stuttgart, so when I was here, so many people asked me; are you still working with Carlos? And I said, Of course. I was so happy he could come onto my team to coach me. I think for me, he's not only tennis coach. I think after I was working with him I feel much stronger in my mind and also much stronger on the court," she said, adding that she pays a lot of attention to Rodriguez's advice, even when he is not courtside.

"If he's my coach, I have to listen because I trust him a lot. He was not in Stuttgart, but we have contact by email, text message, so he knew exactly what I did on the court. After Stuttgart we had a lot email contacts to prepare what we should do here," she explained.

The 32-year-old has sometimes looked uncomfortable as the main star of Chinese tennis and was asked whether or not she felt the pressure of that situation, given that she was the highest ranked of just 3 Chinese players in the world top 100.

"It is something I couldn't change, so I have got used to it," she said, adding that as tennis became more popular in her homeland that situation will change.

"They have a lot tournaments in China," she commented. "They can improve tennis in China, so more people know how tennis is going and more will come face to face with the top stars when they come to court to watch the games."

Last season saw her reach the quarter finals in Madrid before losing to Victoria Azarenka on the controversial blue surface, which many players complained was slippery. This year Madrid returns to red clay and Li said she noticed the difference and said that would probably be helpful to her preparations for Roland Garros, although she stressed conditions in ever tournament were different.