Melbourne - Pioneering Chinese tennis star Li Na announced she was pregnant on Monday in front of 15 000 cheering fans at the Australian Open.
The two-time Grand Slam winner, hugely popular at the Australian Open
where she won the title last year and reached the final in 2011 and
2013, unexpectedly retired in September.
She is a guest of honour at Melbourne Park this year and told the
crowd in Rod Laver Arena ahead of Roger Federer's opening match that she
was expecting her first child.
"Dennis and I are so excited. Our first child will arrive in the summer," she said to huge cheers.
In statement, she added that she was overjoyed.
"A mere 12 months ago, I stood on this court clutching the Australian
Open trophy tightly in my hands, a huge grin on my face, overwhelmed
with joy and a sense of accomplishment that I shared with everyone who
had helped me along the road to this incredible achievement," she said.
"Today, all of those emotions came back to me, yet I had extra
butterflies in my stomach because I wanted to share a very special
secret with the Australian Open fans.
"Over the years, they have supported me and truly helped my success,
so it felt just right to let them in on a little secret I’ve been
holding on to for a few months now.
"This summer, Dennis and I are expecting our first child. We are
overjoyed! And it really feels like this baby is going to enter the
world already having about 15 000 friends."
Li, who won nine titles in her career, is credited with introducing tennis to the masses in China.
She became a sporting pioneer in her homeland when she decided to
break from the state sports system in 2008 with a group of up and coming
players, in a move dubbed by local media "fly alone".
The move meant she was able to choose her own coaches and keep most of her winnings rather than giving them to the government.
She said she and her husband could not wait until their baby was born.