Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki are just two of the players to tweet tributes to Chinese player Li Na, who announced her retirement from tennis on Friday.
The world number six made a statement via her Facebook page, where she thanked her fans and confirmed that she would be hanging up her racquet at the end of a 15-year career, after suffering from persistent knee injury problems.
The 32-year-old wrote: “Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honour.
“Having the unique opportunity to effectively bring more attention to the sport of tennis in China and all over Asia is something I will cherish forever.
“But in sport, just like in life, all great things must come to an end.”
Having won her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, beating Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the final, she then missed a large part of the clay court season, and her last match was a third round defeat at Wimbledon to the unseeded Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in June.
Li has left a legacy in the sport for her continent, as she became the first Asian player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam, when she beat Italian Francesca Schiavone to win the French Open in 2011.
It is testament to this legacy that a number of players have sent their support to the former world number two, who reached her highest world ranking following her triumph in Melbourne this year.
Former world number one Wozniacki posted: “Li Na, one of the funniest and nicest players on tour! A great competitor and a role model both on and off the court! You will be missed!!”
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka followed suit by calling her “a great player,hilarious girl and an inspiration to many,” while former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic commented that Li is an “amazing person and champion.”
The tributes kept coming from her fellow female professionals, as current world number one Serena Williams wished her on court competitor well for the future.
“Congratulations to Li Na,” she tweeted.
“A sad day for tennis but I'm sure your future will be bright and the star you left on our sport will never dim.”
Asian tennis fans have had a year to remember, as following Li’s success at the start of the year, Kei Nishikori of Japan shocked the tennis world by becoming the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final at the US Open earlier in September.
Nishikori beat top seed Novak Djokovic in a four set semi-final, before losing to Croatian Marin Cilic in the final, and along with Li, has set a footprint for the growth of tennis in Asia.
As Li mentioned in her statement, the number of WTA tournaments in China has grown from two to 10 since 2008, and Li’s nine career singles titles may have played a strong part in that.
She plans to play at the Wuhan Tennis Open next week in front her home fans in China, which could be her last tournament, unless she qualifies for the WTA Championship Finals in Singapore in October, should she finish the year inside the top eight of the world rankings.