TOKYO: Swiss tennis legend Martina Hingis said Friday Li Na's retirement was a loss to world tennis, crediting the Chinese star with raising the game's profile in her home country and across Asia.
"It's a sad day for Chinese tennis and for the global sport in general," Hingis, who has won five singles and nine doubles Grand Slam titles, said in Tokyo after hearing about Li's decision during the WTA Pan Pacific Open.
"I have good memories playing her," said the 33-year-old Hingis, who beat Li in the 2007 Australian Open fourth round. Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who was also playing in Tokyo, called the wise-cracking 32-year-old Chinese a "big inspiration both on and off the court" who will be "missed in the locker room." Hingis added the retirement news was "sad" because the next WTA tournament was to be played in Li's hometown of Wuhan next week, immediately followed by the big-money China Open in Beijing.
"There is so much more tennis which has moved tournaments to China, (there has been) development on the women's side of the tour to have the tournaments there," she added. The Women's Tennis Association upgraded the China Open in Beijing last year to become Asia's only event combined with a men's tour.The event is also one of the WTA's top four tournaments. Wozniacki, 24, who lost to Li in the 2011 Australian Open semi-finals, said: "She's an unbelievable person. She's so great as a competitor". "She's so funny. She's so hilarious to be around. So I'm gonna miss her in the locker room. We always have a good laugh".
"What she has done for tennis, not only in Asia but in the whole world, showing great sportsmanship, definitely it's something that is going to be very missed." But the straight-talking Dane also wished Li all the best in her "great new chapter in her life". "I'm sure she's very excited for what's to come," Wozniacki said, quoting a comment Li made after winning this year's Australian Open. "As she said in Australia, her husband is a very lucky man."