London - Li Na said she was stunned by Serena Williams'
impressive comeback from giving birth and said her old rival has a golden
chance to reclaim her Wimbledon crown.
Li is 36 and a mother like Williams but Asia's greatest-ever
player quit the tour four years ago and now concentrates on bringing up her
young family in Beijing.
The 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open champion is
not tempted to make a comeback of her own, as she watches seven-time Wimbledon
winner Williams compete at the All England Club for the first time since the US
great won the 2016 title.
"How fit she looks, especially after having a baby. I
think she has a very big chance to win the trophy again," the former world
number two told reporters at the All England Club.
"I'm surprised she's playing so well. It's very tough,
especially for women, to find the balance between your children and tennis. But
I think she's doing well.
"After four years, I'm still not trying to come back.
Especially for the woman, the body changes a lot. And you have at least four or
five months where you can't sleep for the whole night. When the baby cries or
moves, the woman always wakes up the very next second, so it's very
Few female players have succeeded at Grand Slam level after
Belgium's Kim Clijsters returned to win the 2009 US Open,
while Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley won majors after giving birth
in an era when the physical demands on players were less intense.
Li said she did not miss playing on the tour, but did miss
the rough and tumble of testing herself against the best.
"I live in Beijing. My life is much more relaxed, not
like an athlete where you have to put pressure on yourself every second. Now
I'm just relaxed, I take care of the family and my husband helps a lot, so that
makes it much easier for me.
"I only take care about the family. I like cooking but
I don't like cleaning. We have a nanny who does that.
"I don't really miss the tour but I miss the fighting
competition. You don't find that in normal life."
Williams faces Italy's Camila Giorgi in Tuesday's Wimbledon
quarter-finals and despite being seeded 25th, is yet to face another seed, with
all the top 10 tumbling out early.
"When a player wins four rounds already, everyone has
got a chance because now the draw is pretty open," said Li.
"This is tennis. Nobody is walking on the court saying
OK, I'll give you a free match. Everyone is fighting a lot."
Li is playing with Japan's Ai Sugiyama in the ladies'
invitation doubles at Wimbledon.
"I've taken my whole family to London to look around the
city, because for them it is the first time in London. They will watch me play
here at Wimbledon," she said.
Li has inspired a new generation of Chinese female tennis
players and the sport is growing in her homeland, with tournaments and
"It's very good for the players and very good for the
fans. For the players, you don't need to have long travelling, you can just
stay in the country, you can play big tournaments and come face to face with
the top players. It's a very good chance for them," said Li.
Wang Xinyu (seeded fourth), Wang Xiyu (seeded 10th) and
Zheng Qinwen are through to the last 16 of the Wimbledon girls' singles and Li
has been running an eye over them.
"When I saw the three Chinese juniors play over these
last couple of days, they way they hit the ball is so fast. I'm not strong like
them!" she said.