Li Na recorded her earliest exit from the French Open. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Li Na's comments to Chinese media after her second-round loss at the French Open have garnered attention in China. Li was asked in her post-match press conference if she had an explanation for fans back home for her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 loss to American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
"Do I need to explain?" she answered in Chinese, according to AFP. "It's strange. I lost a game and that's it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them? Apologize to them?"
Li made similar comments during the English portion of her press conference, challenging a reporter for asking her if she was injured during the match.
"Why do you ask me that?" she said. "Because I lose the match?"
Zhang Rongfeng, a journalist for China's official press agency, Xinhua News, wrote, "Losing the game and her bad temper were direct triggers of her episode at the presser. But if we take a closer look, her 'unfriendliness' has a lot to do with her lack of professionalism.
"As a successful athlete, Li Na may be very professional with her training, game experience,PR team operation, and so on, but she is not with her attitude towards the media. She's impatient and not respectful enough to the media."
Those are harsh words for a player who many English-speaking tennis writers consider a joy to interview and one of the best quotes in tennis. It was a disappointing loss for Li, who had come into this year's French Open unencumbered by the expectations that dogged her as a defending champion last year.
She reached the final of Stuttgart last month, where she beat Mattek-Sands in the semifinals 6-4, 6-3 and came into Paris with a good chance of making the quarterfinals or better. She led Mattek-Sands until rain repeatedly interrupted play. After a break, she lost seven games in a row.
Asked to explain the lapse, Li said, "I mean, if I know for sure I not lose seven games in a row. So, yeah, this is very tough condition, you know, back to the court three times."
She now moves to prepare for Wimbledon, where she is a two-time quarterfinalist. With the extra time on her hands, she may request a wildcard into the AEGON International in Eastbourne, a lead-up tournament the week before Wimbledon.