SHEER BLISS: Li Na kisses the French Open cup after defeating Italy's Francesca Schiavone in Paris on June 4 (XINHUA)
Chinese tennis player Li Na beat defending champion Francesca Schiavone from Italy, 6-4, 7-6, on the clay court at Roland Garros, winning the 2011 French Open Tennis Tournament on June 4. She made history by becoming the first Chinese to win a grand slam singles title.
At the Australian Open earlier this year, despite losing to Belgian Kim Clijsters in three sets in the final, Li became the first Chinese woman to reach a grand slam singles final.
Before the French Open, Li ranked seventh in the world. She beat Victoria Azarenka from Belarus in the quarters and moved on to defeat Maria Sharapova, 6-4, 7-5, in the semis. In the final, her opponent was Schiavone, a dark horse from last year's French Open who then eliminated Li in the third round.
In this year's tournament, Schiavone beat Marion Bartoli from France in the semis, 6-3, 6-3, to meet Li.
Schiavone and Li are the oldest pair to compete in a women's Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 1998. But the 29-year-old Li doesn't agree her years trouble her performance. "Age is just paper," she said.
Thanks to her powerful and sharp-angled strokes and more direct winners, Li broke Schiavone's third serve game in the first set and the first in the second set.
Schiavone came up from behind late in the second set, but Li didn't give her any more chances and overtook, controlling the tiebreak and recording a 6-4, 7-6 (7-0) victory.
After winning Schiavone, Li fell to the ground, screaming with joy. "I felt today the dream came true. When I was young, I dreamed about becoming a grand slam champion some day," she said after the game.
Recalling leading 6-0 in the tiebreaker in the second set, Li said she succeeded in staying calm. "I kept telling myself: Don't do anything stupid. You need one point, and you can get it."
"I have played professional tennis for 12 years and I am so happy my efforts have paid off," Li said.
Li's performance earned applause from her rival. "This year she has grown up so much, and she played really well today," Schiavone said.
With the win, Li is now world No.4, equaling the previous Asian record set by Japan's Kimiko Date Krumm in the early 1990s.