Friday 23 February 2018

Li focus turns to Wimbledon after glory Down Under

Li Na with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the 2014 Australian Open
Li Na with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the 2014 Australian Open

Simon Briggs

LI NA added a second Grand Slam title to the French Open she already possessed – and yet her experienced coach, Carlos Rodriguez, believes that her best surface is neither clay nor Plexicushion and he is lining her up for an assault on Wimbledon this summer.

"I'm going to surprise you: grass, because she can move so well," said Rodriguez, who teamed up with Li in July 2012, when the subject came up after the match.

"It is not a criticism of her or the coaches before but when I was with her at Eastbourne (last summer) she had no idea how to play grass.

"There's a path and structure you have to respect on grass. The serve and the things she can do are much better on grass than this kind of surface," he added, nodding towards the hard courts of Melbourne Park.

"I'm not saying she will win Wimbledon this year, but the best match I saw Li play was against (Agnieszka) Radwanska in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

"She went to the net more than 60 times and won 65pc of the points when there."


Rodriguez can take some credit for the remodelled game that overcame Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 6-0 in Saturday's final.

It was a final of two halves, the first featuring nervy errors from both players, and the second showcasing Li's finely calibrated groundstrokes.

Li might be 31, but she still has plenty of ambition, and is constantly trying to develop new techniques. Precious few women are prepared to come to the net these days, but she actually came in behind her serve a number of times and finished the fortnight with a tally of 24 winners from the net (only Victoria Azarenka, with 35, had more).

"It is my job to push her to do something she knows how to do, but she is scared to do," said Rodriguez, who has already persuaded Li to shift the grip on her serve and her backhand – two bold changes that few players would be prepared to undertake when they are already established in the top 10.

"Yeah, at the start of tournament everybody was talking about the age," said Li after her victory. "I would like to say age is nothing. I've got more experience on the court.

"Of course if I want to win another one or two (Grand Slams), I have to go back to the court and work hard and also be even more tough than before. Otherwise there is no chance."

Expect that work to include plenty of volley drills, for Li is the chameleon of the women's game. By the time she arrives at the All England Club this summer, she could be channelling the serve-volley spirit of Martina Navratilova. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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