By Alana Mitchelson
(January 11, 2014) MELBOURNE – In recognition of Li Na‘s outstanding 2013, the jovial world No. 4 has been awarded the International Tennis Writers Association (ITWA) Ambassador of the Year.
ITWA co-president Paul Newman and board member Simon Cambers surprised Li Na at Melbourne Park on Saturday afternoon by presenting her with the Ambassador of the Year 2013 trophy.
“These awards are not only for players who have had very successful years, but for players who represent tennis in a very good light and cooperate with the media,” Co-president Paul Newman explained.
“What she has done for women’s tennis, particularly in China, has been absolutely outstanding and she’s someone I think we all enjoy writing about.”
Li Na was the first ever Asian tennis player to procure a Grand Slam title in her stellar Roland Garros 2011 performance; a victory over Italian defending champion Francesca Schiavone that featured an unbelievable 7-0 tie-break in the second and final set. She has also been a pioneer for tennis back home in China, which has been one of the sport’s major growth areas in recent years.
The Bryan brothers’ perfection exhibited on the doubles court was also honored with an ITWA Ambassador of the Year award. Their superb form throughout 2013 led to an overwhelming achievement of three Grand Slam titles in the one tennis season.
“Because of their success, there are big media demands on their time and both have handled this with great professionalism. They set a very good example to their fellow players,” Newman announced proudly.
Well deserved recognition can go a long way, especially confidence wise what with a truly testing two weeks ahead of her.
“I’m always doing well here so really looking forward (to being) back at the Open. This year, at least I’ll try not to fall down on court. This is more important for me,” Li said seriously but with a giggle.
Having made the final of last year’s Australian Open, Li rolled over her ankle on multiple occasions and even blacked out when her head hit the ground rather hard at one stage upon losing her balance. This heartbreaking loss early in the year seemed to have further motivated Li as she went on to deliver a fantastic 2013 season, reaching the quarterfinals in Miami, Wimbledon and Beijing, the semifinals of Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open – not to mention the WTA Championship final whereby she fell only to the invincible world No. 1 Serena Williams.
“I really wish I can win another Grand Slam. This is the goal for me.
“If I don’t make it (this time), this still is my goal. I will keep going for that.”
Li drew a first round match against unseeded Croatian Ana Konjuh. They are to hit off in Hisense Arena on Monday not before 12.30pm.
The ITWA is an organization that represents 120 of the world’s tennis journalists who are dedicated to traveling all around the world to cover the tennis.
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website http://alanamitchelson.wordpress.com