Li Na lost in three sets to Kim Klijsters in the Australian Open Finals yesterday, and at least part of the blame goes to her own Chinese supporters:
MELBOURNE -Li Na told her coach and husband she would love him “forever” after she lost the Australian Open final Saturday, but she had little love for the “amateur coaches” in the stands who broke her rhythm against Kim Clijsters.
Fed up with boisterous shouts from Chinese fans during the tense second set, ninth seed Li marched to the chair umpire after being broken at 3-3 and asked her: “Can you tell the Chinese, don’t teach me how to play tennis?”
“There were a lot of people coaching me,” she told reporters. “It was really loud and it wasn’t just one direction, it was from all sides.
“I think Chinese people watching tennis can’t be polite … (saying) ‘Take her out!’ and other things.
When they were calling out things it was during returns, so I felt” — and here she inhaled sharply — “so tired!”
The outburst was reminiscent of her moment during her semifinal against Dinara Safina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when she told the local crowd to “shut up.”
Flustered by the frenetic atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, the 28-year-old from the Yangtze river port of Wuhan demanded British umpire Alison Lang order fans to quiet down and railed at flashing cameras as the third set slipped from her fingers.
Unfortunately I didn’t see the match and can’t confirm what exactly the crowd was doing or saying, but still… Obnoxious Chinese fans? Distracting camera flashes? An argumentative Wuhaner? Nothing out of the ordinary there.
Despite her loss, Li’s ranking will rise to a new Chinese record of seven and she is guaranteed a hero’s reception when she returns home, where hundreds of millions tuned in to watch the match live.
I wouldn’t say guaranteed, now that she has made Chinese fans lose face on an internationally televised event. All internet flamers aside, it will be interesting to see the official reaction here. It could be an opportunity to scold Chinese audiences into being more “civilized”, similar to what Beijingers endured in the years preceding the 2008 Olympics. Less likely but still possible is a Wang Zhizhi Situation, in which Li is deemed a “traitor” by the motherland and forced to make a groveling public apology.
The latter is unlikely, as Wang’s was a much more serious offense involving breaking his contract, and it was made against the People’s Liberation Army. For Li, the best case scenario is that they do nothing and just let her play: