China is known for its domination in the sport of table-tennis, but in tennis it is a completely different story. Indeed, tennis has long been dominated by players from Europe, America and Australia. While Asian players like Kimiko Date-Krumm (former world No. 4) and Paradorn Srichaphan (former world No. 9) were able to win a few titles and make some deep runs in Grand Slams, Asia has failed to produce one single major champion. Until now.
Li Na, from Wuhan China, became the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final at the 2011 Australian Open (l. to Kim Clijsters). And at the 2011 French Open, she went one-step further and became the first Grand Slam champion from her continent by defeating the defending champion from Italy, Francesca Schiavone.
Many claimed this year's French Open the "most open" Grand Slam in recent years, and so it proved to be. None of the top four seeds were able to make it to the semifinals, and the "favorite" for the crown changed after each passing day. Not many predicted the final line-up of Li and Schiavone, even fewer picked the Chinese woman to win the title. But against all odds, Li conquered the Parisian clay and for ever etched her name in the annals of tennis.
It is hard enough to make it to a major final, and it is even harder to win it. Many players faltered at the last hurdle (one needs to look no further than the dropping out list below). To make it to two consecutive Grand Slam finals is no small feat. And to win the second final after losing the first one takes courage, dedication and enormous self-belief. To be a champion, you must have the heart of a champion.
This installment of our women's power rankings is a tribute to the 2011 French Open Champion, Li Na from China. Her success will for sure serve as an inspiration to the next generation of young players from China and Asia.
Jelena Jankovic (Last Power Ranking: 9; WTA Ranking: 15)
Jelena Jankovic reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, losing to Schiavone in three sets. She made it to the semifinals in three of the past four years. Her best result at a Grand Slam was a runner-up finish at the 2008 US Open (l. to Serena Williams). She has reached the fourth round at Wimbledon on four different occasions, including last year. She has been a fixture in the world top ten for the past few years, but dropped to No. 15 this week.
Julia Goerges (Last Power Ranking: 7; WTA Ranking: 16)
Julia Goerges reached the third round at Roland Garros, losing to Marion Bartoli. She was in great form coming into the French Open, reaching the final four in Madrid and winning Stuttgart. Bur her inexperience at the majors prevented her from going deeper into the draw. She lost in the first round at Wimbledon in the last two years. She is currently at her career high world ranking of No. 16.
Caroline Wozniacki (Last Power Ranking: 4; WTA Ranking: 1)
Caroline Wozniacki, the current world No. 1, crashed out of the French Open in the third round at the hand of Daniela Hantuchova, winning a total of four games in that match. Similar to Andy Murray on the men's side, the wait for the first major continues. She reached the US Open final in 2009 (l. to Kim Clijsters), but has since failed to duplicate that effort at Grand Slams. Her best result at Wimbledon is the fourth round, achieved in the past two years. She is the only top player in action this week, defending the title at her home event in Copenhagen.
Samantha Stosur (Last Power Ranking: 2; WTA Ranking: 10)
Samantha Stosur famously lost to Schiavone in last year's French Open final, since she entered that contest as the strong favorite. Her campaign this year was unceremoniously ended by Gisela Dulko in the third round. She has never performed well at Wimbledon, exiting in the first round on four occasions, most recently last year.