Sports / Tennis

Li Na hopes to cooperate with new coach until retirement

Updated: 2012-09-29 17:22

BEIJING - Chinese women's tennis superstar Li Na said on Saturday that she hopes to link up with her newly recruited coach Carlos Rodriguez until retirement.

After losing in the first round at the London Olympics, an event especially important at home in China, the Chinese number one thought it was time for a change and hired Argentine Rodriguez, a famous coach who used to escort former world number one Justine Henin.

"I want to play better than before, that's why I hired Carlos. I don't want to end up my career like this because I expect more from future," said Li, who will be playing the China Open which kicks off on Saturday.

"Last year my form was kind of like roller coaster, and I'm more consistent this season. Carlos has confidence in me and he has started to give tactic advice to me, which helps a lot. I really wish I can cooperate with him until retirement," Li added.

The 30-year-old Li made history by becoming the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title at last year's French Open, but has found it hard to take another WTA title for more than a year.

Rodriguez's partnership with Li has been short, but the results have been immediate. In her first tournament after joining forces with him (though communicating with him only electronically), she reached the final in Montreal. The next week she won an event in Cincinnati, joined midweek by Rodriguez.

The Argentine took the place of Jiang Shan, Li's former coach and her husband whom she married in 2006.

"Jiang is not out of my career completely as he still serves as my hitting partner. Besides, he can take care of my life, like a manager."

Rodriguez, 48, has spent the majority of his career coaching Belgian women. His first stint on the WTA Tour was with Dominique Monami from 1994 to 1996. After that, he switched to the then 14-year-old junior prospect Henin. He stayed as her sole coach for 15 years, until she retired for the second time in 2011 with seven Grand Slam titles and 117 weeks at the No. 1 ranking to her name.

Li is currently eighth in the world, and has set her sights on the season-ending WTA Championships which will be played from October 23 in Istanbul.

The China Open will provide another chance for Li to boost her rankings points. Australia's Samantha Stosur and Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, ranked ninth and 10th respectively, are also in with a shout of going to Istanbul.

Li, however, did not feel the heat from her close competitors. "If I lose the WTA Championships berth at the China Open, I won't take part in more events to win that back, the Beijing event will be my last event this season," she said.

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