Li Na: I'm ready to be world No. 1
LI NA said she was ready to work hard to become world No. 1 after clinching a popular Australian Open victory which looks set to accelerate China's tennis boom.
The Chinese star will return to third in the rankings when they are released today, just 11 points behind second-placed Victoria Azarenka, after downing Dominika Cibulkova for her - and Asia's - second Grand Slam singles title.
Li's third ranking is the highest achieved by an Asian woman player and she acknowledged she now had a chance of supplanting American great Serena Williams, winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, as No. 1.
"Of course, I have to win more matches or win more titles," she said, when asked about the prospect yesterday.
The 31-year-old added that "everyone has a chance" to reach the top ranking, but she had a better opportunity than most after finally landing the Australian title after three appearances in the final.
Li, who lost to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Azarenka last year, survived a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third round but, from then on, was never seriously threatened.
Her victory is exquisitely timed for the Women's Tennis Association, which will hold six tournaments in China this year and is staging its end-of-year finale in Singapore for the first time.
But first, Li - now A$2.65 million (S$3 million) richer - will return to Wuhan for Chinese New Year and show her mother, who is too nervous to attend her matches, the gleaming trophy.