Stars bring comedy to court
Updated: 2011-12-19 07:57
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
Li gets by with a little help from her friends in her hometown
WUHAN - Tennis turned into slapstick comedy at the weekend.
Fourteen-time major champion Pete Sampras dropped his racquet and surrendered to his opponent during a rally. Big-serving German Sabine Lisicki tossed up bad service balls six times in a row and Spaniard Carlos Moya shouted "Ouch!" after being hit by a soft shot.
That's what was on show during the "Li Na and Friends" exhibition tournament, which featured singles and mixed doubles in Li's hometown of Wuhan.
The players' exploits drew huge cheers from the packed stadium, but the stars remained modest about their acting skills.
"My wife is an actress, my acting is not very good. But tonight, it's about having some fun. Being on court with these three great players is fun for us. It's not too serious that was the goal tonight," said Sampras, who even served a ball near the net to gain "revenge" for a powerful Moya return.
Li, the crowd favorite, also thundered down some athletic smashes to pay back her fans' support.
"I just tried to have fun. If I were that good at acting, I would have already become a movie star. But I am still a tennis player now, so that means I should only concentrate on the game," Li said.
However, Li was in no mood to speculate about her goals for the coming season.
"Could you guys please not ask questions about my targets or hopes any more?" this year's French Open champion said. "I am tired of that and I think you are too," said Li. "Please change to another topic."
Li and Sampras defeated Lisicki and Moya, 7-6 (4) in the one-set doubles. Li also outperformed the German world No 15, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in the singles.
Li found the doubles the easier proposition.
"I felt so relaxed cooperating with him (Sampras). I never imagined one day I would play with him in doubles, and it became easy for me. He's done everything, so I just stood, watched and enjoyed the victory," said Li, the current women's world No 5.
The stars demonstrated some dazzling skills, including Moya's between-the-legs shots and Lisiki's smart volleys at the net.
"The longer the match went on, the better we played. Towards the end, it was a very good match. I take the blame for the loss, because she was the better player than me today," Lisicki said after losing to Li for the first time in their third encounter this year.
But Sampras joked the German "tried to be a good guest" by conceding the victory.
The 22-year-old Lisicki also ended Li's Wimbledon campaign as a wild card in the second round and finally advanced to the semifinals of that event. She was also named the WTA Comeback Player of the Year after fighting her way back among the women's elite after dropping out of the top 100 last year.
Meanwhile, former French Open champion Moya spoke of Li's impact on the sport in China.
"I think what Li did took tennis to another level in China. She proved that good Asian female players can do it (win a Grand Slam). For sure the kids (in China) want to play tennis now," said the 35-year-old.
"It's what's happening in Spain. If you have a hero doing well in tennis or Formula One, kids, who wanted to be good soccer players in the past, now want to be tennis aces. It's very important for Chinese tennis, which is much bigger than a few years ago. It's great to take advantage of that."