Friday, October 28, 2011

For Now, Li Is A Ship Without An Anchor

Na Li has seen better days, and she probably will again. But for now the French Open champion is a ship without anchor, a house with no windows, a lonely puppy in the dog-eat-dog world of professional women's tennis.

Li was hammered relentlessly, 6-1, 6-0 in 66 minutes, by Sam Stosur in Round Robin play at the WTA Championships in Istanbul today. As Stosur, another maiden Grand Slam winner in 2011, appears buoyed by her confidence-inspiring victory in New York, Li appears jaded by her own meteoric rise. She's can't put a string of good matches together, and she appears to be confused and purposeless both in her shotmaking and in her level of interest. Li wandered the court aimlessly today in Istanbul as she faced Stosur in a match with huge implications, misfiring with regularity and not even bothering to take the time to berate her always up-for-it husband and coach, Jiang Shan when things got really bad.

It makes me wonder: Is Li, as she approaches 30, done? Have we seen her shining moment, and are all her top flight sponsors doomed to regret their affiliation with her?

Probably not, but that doesn't change the fact that Li has only won consecutive matches once since the French Open, has fired the coach that guided her to triumph in Paris, and seems generally unhappy on the court.

It makes you wonder, is success really all that bad?

Of course not, and even the self-effacing Li wouldn't cop to that. I'm sure, however, that she would cop to the fact that the plethora of new obligations to sponsors, fans and family have distracted her from her mission on the court. Fair enough, and understandable. But time is short for Li, who will turn 30 on February 26, 2012. It's time to stop celebrating and start focusing on that wonderful power baseline game again.

Whatever Li's problems are at the moment, there's no reason that she can't overcome them and get her game back on track for the 2012 Australian Open (a place where she's traditionally had a lot of success).

Unfortunately for her, all the self-belief that she should be carrying with her as she travels the globe with her tennis rackets in tow has been obliterated over the last few months of inexplicably bad tennis by Li.

None of her recent failures will ever mar her amazing groundbreaking win in Paris this spring, but future success will depend on Li's ability to dig herself out of a huge hole that she probably should have avoided falling into in the first place.

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