Li Na will beat Sharapova if she believes, says coach
Updated: 2013-01-24 09:38
Li Na of China celebrates defeating Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in their women's singles quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Jan 22, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates defeating compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in their women's singles quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Jan 22, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
MELBOURNE - Transforming trailblazer Li Na from a hot-headed one-Slam wonder into a cold-blooded winner of multiple major titles is the end game for coach Carlos Rodriguez, who says the Chinese is primed to upset Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open semifinals.
"Most of my work, more than 90 percent of my job in the last 48 hours is on that."
If anyone has the pedigree to push Li further, the wiry Argentine could lay claim, having overseen Justine Henin's transition from a pint-sized teenager into a colossus of the women's game.
In one of the most successful partnerships in tennis's modern era, Rodriguez drove Henin to seven Grand Slam titles, convincing the Belgian that belief could overcome brawn, and finesse, raw power.
On paper and on court, the hard-hitting Li shares little in common with the retired Henin, one of the few on the women's tour with the head-game to match Serena Williams.
But Rodriguez says the players share similar characters, and he feels a strong bond with Li, who has struggled to deal with the expectations from a nation of 1.3 billion people.
"In a lot of feelings, a lot of sensibility, there are some common points that are much easier for me to work with a player like (Li)," said Rodriguez, whose tanned and craggy features bear witness to a life spent outdoors on practice courts.
"At least (Li's) a person that had the courage to put herself in the situation that she had to learn."
Li Na's road to Australian Open semifinals:
Sharapova's road to Australian Open semifinals: