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Li Na coping with pressure of a nation

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Li Na is the golden girl of Chinese tennis and perhaps the golden girl of the whole of sport in the country. Since her 2011 success in Roland Garros, she has turned tennis into a game that many youngsters want to play, keen to emulate her. Li was beaten finalist to Maria Sharapova last year and appears to be coping just fine with the renewed pressures of an entire nation on her shoulders, thanks to her recent exploits. “Of course it has become bigger and bigger since Roland Garros and more people play tennis but what changes I couldn’t tell you,” she says. “I tried to improve tennis in China but one person cannot do anything and at least there are many more people that are playing and now they say that it is a professional sport. And they can see top players that are playing too. “I don’t know at the moment how many more people are playing in China. Li insists her surprise first round exit to Madison Keys in Madrid has not dented her confidence and is now hoping to re-produce the form she showed when reaching the final of Stuttgart last month. There, she lost to Maria Sharapova and Li believes the Russian is the one to beat. “I was feeling maybe she can slide on the court which is important,” she says. “You have to know when to slide and she has improved a lot these things.” Another potential challenger here is Victoria Azarenka, who is conscious not to peak too soon ahead of the French Open. “I thinks I’m getting there and I don’t think I’m playing my best but I don’t this think I’m supposed to be playing the best,” she says. “It’s a part of the preparation and during practise its all good and so you need to start to compete and I had two matches in Madrid and the second one did not go well for me and so you have to take something positive out of that.”

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