Chinese tennis star Li Na says she's not about to change her persona just because some people think she might be too outspoken.
Li, who became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam title last year at the French Open, tells it like it is, which is a rare quality among pro athletes from China.
"I always believe if you lie one time you have to work 10 times harder to recover that one lie," Li said on Sunday after beating compatriot Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-3 at the Indian Wells tournament. "So I don't want do that. I know if I say real things many people will hate me, but doesn't matter. I'm happy."
Li, of Wuhan, Hubei province, has played on the national team and in Fed Cup events, but says her main focus right now is on competing on the WTA Tour.
When it comes to Li, what you see is what you get. That's a rarity among pro athletes from China who often seem uncomfortable around the international press. She has been doing her own interviews in English without a translator for about five years.
Li's victory in the French Open final over Francesca Schiavone helped boost tennis in China, and made Li a sought-after and well-rewarded product endorser.
But the sport still has a long way to go to catch soccer, basketball or table tennis in popularity, and she insists she is not interested in being a national icon.
"Many people think, 'Oh, she's maybe next to Yao Ming or something'," Li said.
"I think I'm only a tennis athlete. I'm not here for the country. I just play my tennis. I am just doing my job and trying my best."
(China Daily 03/13/2012 page22)