NEWPORT: The 37-year-old former Chinese star Li Na became the first Asian-born player to be inducted on Saturday. She has broken new ground at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
She was enshrined along with Mary Pierce of France and Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov during a lengthy on-court ceremony that followed the Hall of Fame Open semifinals and stretched from sunset into nighttime, forcing grounds’ crew members to scramble and bring in smaller spotlights.
Li became the first Asian to win a Grand Slam tournament, capturing the 2011 French Open in a final that was watched by an estimated 116 million people in her country.
“I did not (know) before I came to the court or it would have made me more nervous,” she said during a mid-afternoon press conference.
“I started @ about 8 years old, but I hated tennis,” she told the crowd that was sitting in near darkness. “Not bad, at least I’m standing here right now.”
She also captured the 2014 Australian Open after being runner-up twice.