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Li: “Winning a slam is my ultimate goal”

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Originally published on: 09/07/10 11:37

She honed her craft on the Badminton court, but Na Li’s decision – prompted by her coach – to switch to tennis at the age of six was a stroke of genius.

Currently in the midst of a career-best season, the Wuhan-born world No.10 had a tendency to implement topspin into her badminton play, and it was a trait that launched her steadfast rise into the lucrative world of top-level tennis.

And now, 11 years after turning professional and with the badminton rackets gathering dust in the cupboard, the 28-year-old has set her heart on claiming one of the game’s major honours.

“Winning a Grand Slam is my ultimate goal,” said a buoyant Li this week following her second appearance in a Wimbledon quarter-final. “I am ready at any time.”

Li was defeated by the eventual champion in each of the three majors so far this year, losing to Serena Williams at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and to surprise Roland Garros champ Francesca Schiavone in the third round in Paris. It is a pattern she plans to alter at the US Open, having lost to (you guessed it) surprise champ Kim Clijsters in her career-best run to the Flushing Meadows quarters in 2009.

But though she wouldn’t be drawn on whether she could win the New York slam this year, Li has good reason to be in confident mood. Her defeat of three-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova in Birmingham brought her the third WTA title of her career, while the imperious Williams was the only obstacle to her bettering her quarter-final best at the All England Club.

“I played my normal game (at Wimbledon),” she said, simply. “I have had a good season and I want to get better and better.”

And you wouldn’t doubt that she could. Hard courts favour her athletic court craft and quickfire groundstrokes, but for now, Li admits her primary goal for the season is to delve into single digits in the rankings for the first time in her career.

“I want to go to Doha. That’s the goal of the season,” she urged. And Li, who was mysteriously absent from the circuit for 25 months from April 2002 admits to being more content than ever on court.

“There have been ups and downs in my career,” she admitted, “but when you achieve your goals, you don’t feel the painful part any more.”

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