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Li Na graces cover of the 2013 Time magazine. [Photo/sports.sohu.com]
Chinese tennis player Li Na, the first Asian woman to win a Grand Slam title, was named on Thursday among Time magazine's most influential people in the world, along with NBA player LeBron James and Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli.
The 2011 French Open champion appeared for the first time on the 2013 Time 100 list, the magazine's annual list of the world's top 100 global titans, leaders, artists, pioneers and icons.
The 31-year-old Chinese will also be featured on the cover of its international editions, becoming the second Chinese sports icon to enjoy the honor, after retired basketball legend Yao Ming.
Li Na, "who may soon be the highest-paid female athlete in the world," won a total of 627 votes in Time's Web poll, leading with a large gap against her tennis counterpart candidates Serena Williams and Andy Murray, and was finally the only tennis player on the list.
The world No 5 player won worldwide recognition after her Roland Garros victory and cemented her international fame as she demonstrated her spirit at the season-opening Australian Open final loss with an ankle injury, missing a golden chance to double her Grand Slam titles.
A screen grab from time100.time.com shows Li Na's poll page as one of the 2013 Time 100 candidates. [Photo/sports.sina.com]
Other sports figures among the final list were World Cup and Olympics champion alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, who is Tiger Woods' current girlfriend, and CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Travis Tygart, who heads the investigation of Lance Armstrong.
Bollywood actor and political activist Aamir Kahn will appear on the front of international editions as Li Na, while US rapper Jay-Z, Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Pakistani teenager Mulala Yousufzai and US Republican Sen Rand Paul will be featured on five different US covers.
Time said that for the first time it is issuing seven separate covers for its 100 Most Influential People edition, which will be published in the United States on Friday.
The list is not ranked, but Time managing editor Rick Stengel said the seven cover portraits "reflect the breadth and depth of the list."
US President Barack Obama got his eighth entry on the list, along with his wife Michelle, newly installed Pope Francis, British royal Kate Middleton, Democratic People's Republic of Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, and Philippines President Noynoy Aquino.
Jay-Z's wife Beyonce and Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun were also listed.
Time's recommendation for Li Na
...Tennis has exploded in China. The country now has some 15 million tennis players; 116 million people watched Li win the French Open. That kind of exposure is crucial to our sport, and it never would have happened without Li. At tournaments, I’ve seen her charm the crowds. When she smiles, everyone melts. She’s such a breath of fresh air. And like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova before her, Li Na has transcended her sport.
Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam singles championships, is a tennis commentator for ESPN
Li Na of China poses with the runner-up trophy after losing her women's singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during the 2013 Australian Open final at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Jan 26, 2013. [Photo/CFP]