Li heading home after shock exit

Trailblazing Li Na can finally pack her bags and look forward to putting her feet up after her remarkable European summer ended abruptly under Wimbledon’s Centre Court roof on Thursday.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 24 Jun 2011, 10:24 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:12 AM

The world number four squandered two match points in a 3-6 6-4 8-6 second round defeat by German wildcard Sabine Lisicki but will still go back to China a sporting heroine after claiming the French Open earlier this month.

The 29-year-old had little time to bask in the glory of becoming the first player from an Asian nation to win a grand slam singles title as she headed for the grass and the chance to complete a double last achieved by Serena Williams in 2002.

So while being the victim of the biggest shock so far at the championships was hard to take, there was a flip side in that she can go home for the acclaim she deserves.

Not that she is expecting thousands to be lining the street when she arrives back in Wuhan.

“No. I mean, right now I didn’t tell everyone (I’m going home),” an upbeat Li told reporters. “Don’t write it down in the newspaper! I just want to be with my husband, go back to my home town and take some time to recover.

“I’m gonna stay in the house with the family, with friends, of course. Because if you are always travelling the world, you never have time to spend with friends.

“Of course I like to go shopping, but you have to make prize money first, right?” she joked in typical style.

That should not be a problem after earning around $2 million since beginning her momentous European adventure in Stuttgart in April.

What had seemed to be a filler-in between two men’s matches on the showpiece court, judging by the number of empty seats at the start as fans sought refreshments, turned into a thriller.

Tricky dropshots

Li had looked to be heading for a straightforward victory after dominating from the baseline in the first set but Lisicki dug out some tricky dropshots to force the Chinese forward where the errors crept in.

Lisicki grabbed a service break in the fourth game of the second set after a Li double fault and the German unleashed some fast serves, some of which were recorded at over 120 miles per hour, to surge 5-2 ahead.

“From the start of the first point ‘til the end of the match, every serve was like around 117 miles. I mean, this is impossible for the women,” Li said.

Lisicki dropped serve at 5-3 in the second set but broke back immediately to level the match.

The finishing line was in sight when Li earned herself two match points on the Lisicki serve but she twice sent shots into the net and her chance slipped away.

Buoyed by her narrow escape and a wave of support for the underdog, Lisicki kept her nerve to set up her own match points.

Li saved both, one with an ace, but Lisicki sealed an emotional victory on her third when Li fired a forehand wide.

“It was really, really hard,” said former world number 22 Lisicki, who won the Birmingham title this month. “I had to start from zero having been on crutches for seven weeks.

“Winning the title in Birmingham meant so much to me. And of course getting the wildcard here, I appreciate that so so much, to be back in Wimbledon, a place I love so much.”

Lisicki, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2009, will face Japanese qualifier Misaki Doi in the third round.

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