BEIJING: China’s only grand slam winner Li Na was the object of widespread media and online criticism in her home country Friday after a graceless response to her French Open defeat.
Li, who won the tournament in 2011 to seal her place as one of China’s sporting stars, crashed out on Thursday 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to unseeded American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a rain-interrupted second-round match.
At the post-match press conference the sixth seed reacted tersely when asked if she had an explanation for her fans at home.
“Do I need to explain?” she riposted in Chinese. “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?”
Her remarks sparked condemnation in Chinese media and outrage from posters on China’s Sina Weibo service, even among her fans.
In a commentary carried by China’s official news agency Xinhua, its sports journalist Zhang Rongfeng 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.”
A user named Dibayin commented: “Li lost the game, which is normal—no one wins all the time. It’s her insensitivity that is the problem. What I want to ask Li Na is, why did you think you could just go off at the presser?
“Did you think you were still in the rice fields in your hometown in Hubei province? Losing the game is ok, you can win it next time. What you really need to improve is your courtesy and behaviour.”
Another user, Shenyu K, seemed to agree. “I am a fan of Li Na, but I really don’t like this side of her—not her losing the game but what she said afterwards.
“It doesn’t matter so much that she lost the game as she acted like a bitch and took out her frustration on the media and her fans. It’s not unprecedented, she has blamed her husband and her coach before.”
Li is due to play Wimbledon from June 24 and says she has no tournaments planned beforehand.