Li Na bid an emotional farewell to her home supporters at the China Open on Tuesday, as she was given a fitting send-off following her retirement from tennis.
The Chinese star announced earlier in September that she would be hanging up her racquet, and men’s world number two Rafael Nadal presented her with flowers at her leaving ceremony in Beijing before Tuesday’s night session.
An emotional goodbye
The two-time Grand Slam winner attempted to hold back tears, and she thanked her fans for their support before doing a lap of honour on Center Court and waved goodbye to the crowd.
She said: "I'm very happy to have the chance to say goodbye to all of you here.
"It's very tough to say goodbye, but I promise I will be around the court."
There were also appearances at the ceremony by Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, former world number one Jelena Jankovic and this year’s US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki.
Kvitova, who had tears in her eyes, thanked Li for her contributions to tennis, as she said: “We are sad that you are leaving us but we wish you all the best.”
WTA chairwoman Stacey Allaster also thanked Li, calling her “the player of the decade.”
Li confirmed via her Facebook page shortly before the start of the Wuhan Open that it would be her final tournament, with recurring knee injuries being the primary reason.
An injury too far
It was the latest knee injury that saw the 32-year-old miss this year’s US Open, and her last match was a surprise third round loss at Wimbledon in June to the unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Stycova, while her world ranking has slipped to fifth since then.
She won nine career singles titles, with two of them coming in her final year on the WTA tour, and she is statistically China’s most successful ever tennis player, while she is the only Chinese player to break into the world’s top 10.
This year was a fitting one for Li to bow out, as she won her second major title at the Australian Open in January, beating Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the final, after winning the Shenzhen Open earlier that month.
Li’s success in Melbourne followed her first major triumph at the French Open in 2011, where she became the first Asian player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam after beating then reigning champion Francesca Schiavone.
But she was not able to follow up on her magnificent start to the year, as despite reaching the final in Miami in March, she was then knocked out in the first round of the French Open by home player Kristina Mladenovic, who was ranked outside the top 100 at the time.