New month means new coach for Li

Updated: 2011-10-02 07:06

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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New month means new coach for Li

Chinese ace explains yet another change heading into China Open in Beijing

BEIJING - Li Na can't seem to make up her mind. We'll find out soon enough if that's a good thing.

Five months after replacing her coach who also happens to be her husband, Jiang Shan with Denmark's Michael Mortensen, Li will play in the China Open with Jiang back in her corner.

Li originally said she hired Mortensen because she needed more encouragement. Trifles at home had begun to affect her performance on the court.

But then, shortly before the China Open, Li unexpectedly fired the man who helped win the French Open in June, and reinstalled Jiang. Li said a coach who knows her well is more important than one who encourages her.

"No matter whether Jiang is a good coach or not, he is the guy who knows me best," the 29-year-old Li said on Saturday. "Between us, it seems no language is required - a sign, eye contact will tell the story. It's harder to deal with the sort of relationship between me and my husband than the general coaching relationship, and the roles are changing now.

It's a bit difficult - naturally it will not happen very fast. I hope I can cooperate well with my husband like I did at the beginning of the year, and I trust him."

After Li's former coach Thomas Hogstedt left her at the end of 2010, Jiang first took on the role.

The couple had a nearly perfect opening, when Li reached her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January.

She was beaten by Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final, then endured a series of gloomy results before replacing Jiang with Mortensen.

New month means new coach for Li

"It's really hard for Jiang to switch roles between a husband and the coach. Every couple may have some quarrel in their personal lives, and I don't want to let the bad mood affect my matches," Li said in May.

"I need a professional coach who can give me something positive, and now Mortensen has given me a lot of advice, and it makes me feel better."

Under Mortensen's encouragement in Paris, Li became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam title, so her separation with him came as a surprise.

"It's hard to say. It's like person in love. If you feel it's not right, not proper, you just separate. Only the person who's in it will be able to tell the reason," Li said.

Drawn in the second half with Australia's Samantha Stosur, who just won the US Open champion in September, Li isn't scheduled to face a steep challenge until a potential fight against Italian veteran Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals.

Li, who was defeated by Stosur three times this season, including an early exit at the US Open in August, tried to play down the public's expectation.

"Who says my early rounds will be easy? The ball is round, and anything can happen on the court, as long as the referee doesn't end the match," said Li, who was seeded fourth at China Open. "Even the top seeds are not guaranteed to win."

China Daily