Beijing - Chinese newspapers and Internet users on Sunday heaped praise on tennis star Li Na for her pluck and persistence despite her defeat in the women's final of the Australian Open.
Li lost a three-set match against Belarusian world No 1 Victoria Azarenka on Saturday. She suffered two dramatic falls during the match and later said one of them briefly knocked her unconscious.
But Li's "calm and comfortable reaction and bright smile left an even deeper impression on us" than her two falls, the Wuhan Evening News, published in her home city in central China, said following the match.
"Before the game nobody estimated she would go so far," the paper said, adding that her opponent was "too powerful, talented and tenacious".
Other reports joined the chorus of praise for Li, who has "a fighter's heart," according to the popular website Sina Sports. "At this point, Li Na can be prouder than the victor," it said.
The Henan Evening News praised Li, 30, for her performance as one of the older players in top-flight women's tennis, saying: "That (Li) is still full of competitiveness is itself a miracle".
Internet users voiced support for Li on social networking websites. "Great stuff, Li Na, although you lost, you are glorious," said one user of Sina Weibo, a website similar to Twitter.
Li, known for her humour and feisty personality, saw her profile massively boosted in China after a historic victory at the French Open in 2011, when she became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Online comments following Saturday's final also referred to Li's rocky relationship with China's sports authorities, which led to her leaving the state-run Chinese Tennis Association to choose her own coach and schedule.
"Li Na is an idol with emotion and character, not the perfect kind of idol traditionally thought of in China, so the leaders don't like her - but we all love her," one Sina Weibo user said.