Li Na feels this has been her best year of tennis in her career. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL -- Li Na has won just one tournament this season, but she believes the consistency she's shown in 2013 makes it the best year of her career, even better than 2011, when she won the French Open.
"At least this year, I was feeling at the beginning of the year until now that I always stayed at the same level, not like before," Li said during her pre-tournament news conference at the WTA Championships. "Maybe in 2011 I won the Grand Slam, but other tournaments, I have not had good results."
This season, Li won the season-opening Shenzhen Open and made the final of the Australian Open, the semifinals of the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. Outside of the Slams, she has indeed been more consistent. On the whole, she's made the quarterfinals or better at 11 of 14 tournaments. She may not have won the big titles, but Li isn't too bothered by that fact.
"I don't know how the other players feel, but for me, it didn't matter how many tournaments you won," she said. "I know I only won one tournament, but you have to see the other tournaments, too. I played a lot of semis, a lot of quarters. I was feeling this was much better than last year, so at least I improved a lot."
After her first full year working with coach Carlos Rodriguez, Li says she's a better player now because she's mentally stronger. She's had a reputation of getting very negative with herself during matches, but she's been calmer on court this year. Losses are no longer soul-crushing referendums on her self-worth, and she's learned to handle the pressure that comes with being the face of Chinese tennis.
"I was feeling I could control myself more," she said. "It's not like before."