Now a private citizen, having retired from a highly controversial but inspirational tennis career, her story on and off the court, it was recently reported, will be made into a movie to be directed by Hong Kong’s Peter Chen.
It should be good news to Chinese authorities because they can cash in on their prodigal daughter, who had defied them and went on to win two Grand Slams—the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014.
With the irrepressible Li Na starring in the biopic of one who has become a Chinese sporting legend, the mainland’s athletic mandarins can harp on her possibly being the first tennis player—male or female—whose unparalleled exploits, for a Chinese woman at that, will be immortalized on the big screen.
In China, which used to be a doormat in extremely high-level international competitions, gymnasts and divers, swimmers and Liu Xiang are rock stars (read: Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines and beyond) who give the motherland glory that would have pleased Mao and Deng and the rest of them revolutionaries.
Why, not even legends Chris Evert, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, Rene Lacoste Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg, to name a few greats, can claim to have a movie about their own sterling tennis careers.
Basking in the glory of Li Na’s achievements will endear Mao’s anointed to their citizens, who now have a face—a pretty one, if this corner may say so—to represent them.
Yao Ming, no offense meant to him and basketball fanatics from all over, does not qualify because he was an obedient son who did what the state had told him how to behave when he was on his way to becoming and when he did become a huge NBA star.
Not that Li Na (an expectant mother at this writing) was a bad girl gone wild, only that, for one, she wanted to keep her money that she was earning from the WTA circuit and, for another, she also wanted out of the clutches of China’s tennis overlords and straight into the hands of her husband and eventual coach Dennis.
It is not yet known who will play the role of Li Na in the movie, which is tentatively titled “Li Na: My Life,” but whoever she is should have the tennis player’s wry and self-deprecating sense of humor, wit, charisma and other qualities that concededly have made her widely popular beyond the top spins and ground strokes of her game.
The Chinese government had better leave Chen alone, if its movers and shakers want to take advantage of the win-win situation that the Li Na film this early seems to offer them.
Unless of course its ideologues want to derail their grand plan to convince the International Tennis Federation to turn over to them the Australian Open—the first Grand Slam of the annual tennis season.
After the turnover, these communists plan to pass on the tournament as the Grand Slam of Asia, arguing that Australia is not exactly part of the continent but Oceania, and hold it in the mainland, most likely in Beijing.
They need Li Na to accomplish that plan and this corner would like to think that that they cannot one-up her the second time around.