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Tennis ace's brave performance wins legions of new fans around the world, report Sun Xiaochen in Melbourne, Australia, and Lei Lei in Beijing.
China's 30-year-old tennis ace twisted an ankle and also hit her head as she contested the final against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Saturday night. However, she earned immense respect, helped to rejuvenate her career and gave another boost for the sport in her home country.
"Your play has moved a nation of people," wrote the former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury on his micro blog. "I, myself, was moved at seeing your amazing performance."
Defeat makes us stronger, he added.
Marbury was one of 15 million followers who tweeted about Li's final on Saturday, where the injured Chinese player lost to the world No 1 6-4, 4-6, 3-6.
Sixth seed Li twisted her left ankle early in the second set, before rolling the same ankle when play resumed after a 10-minute break for the Australia Day fireworks. She lost her balance and crashed down, her head hitting the ground.
The sound of Li's head hitting the surface silenced the crowd, making them sit up, watch and pray. However, the Chinese No 1's typical grin soothed the tensions and she quickly returned to the court, while her millions of online followers hoped for the best and encouraged her.
"I was really moved by your smile during the injury and by your tears after the match," wrote Gao Ying, a company manager from Qingdao, on her Weibo. "I laughed and cried with you. There is regret, but no disgrace, because you've done your best. You are really great."
Li twisted her left ankle early in the second set of the final on Saturday. [Photo/Xinhua]