WUHAN, China -- For the first time since she announced her retirement from professional tennis on Friday, two-time Slam champion Li Na addressed the media in Beijing on Sunday.
Speaking at the Chinese National Tennis Center, Li said she had "no regrets" about her decision to walk away from the game just eight months after winning her second major title at the Australian Open in January. She reiterated that her 32-year-old body, which has undergone four knee surgeries, could no longer withstand the rigors of the game and that she had accomplished everything she believed she could over her 15-year career. After once again struggling with a knee injury in March of this year, Li said she began to seriously contemplate the idea of ending her career. Following a knee surgery in July, she says she made the final decision to retire just last Thursday.
As for her post-tennis life, Li plans to open a tennis academy in China and work as a tennis coach for kids, a decision that is undoubtedly influenced by the difficult and strict coaches she endured when she first played the game. She plans to stay in China to start a family with her husband Jiang Shan and will settle near her academy so she can keep a hands-on approach.
Watch highlights from Li's emotional press conference below:
While Li was speaking Beijing, the Wuhan Open was getting underway in her home city. Even in her absence she dominated the conversation as Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and other top players addressed the press.
"She brought all of us here, so I think it's a little extra sad that she won't be participating this year," Sharapova said. "But I think she can look back at her career with a big smile on her face and everything that she's achieved and gone through so many injuries in her career, and I think that shows a lot of how much dedication she had for what she did and the passion for the sport. When you get down to get back up it's very meaningful."
"I liked her, and at one moment few years ago I said that she's like a model for me, because I liked a lot how she was playing, her shots and everything," No. 2 Simona Halep said. "She moved very well on court. She was a great player, a real champion."
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who Li considered a good friend on tour, said she will miss the tough battles on court. "I think we have the same sense of humor, so that's why it was always very nice to speak with her," she said. "After every match we just had a hug. Doesn't matter who won or lose. It was always very nice to speak with someone before the match and same straight after."
"I was a little surprised to receive so many positive comments," Li said, smiling. "So I think my PR connection is pretty good." At one point in her press conference a journalist broke down in tears while trying to ask his question. Li didn't miss a beat. "Here, take this," she said, and offered him a tissue. Then she struggled to hold back tears of her own.