Former coach expects Li Na to go further

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Li Na is likely to go even further in the future, said her former coach after China's tennis flag-bearer won Saturday's French Open final to become the first Asian to win a grand slam singles title.

Pan Bing, who coached Li from 2000-2002 as well as 2004-2005, said Li had polished her skills and toughened mentality step by step since the Australian Open final in January and was in much better condition at the French Open.

"Although she finished second in Australia, she managed to turn her loss to Kim Clijsters into an opportunity of learning a lesson and acquiring more experience," said Pan.

"The 29-year-old Li showed no signs of becoming physically weaker and I believe that she is in a position to make more breakthroughs as long as she can avoid injuries," Pan said in Li's hometown, the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

"Li has never been poorly skilled. She made a wise decision when firing her husband Jiang Shan as coach and the new coach from Denmark breathed new life into her team," according to Xu Feng, who claimed to have become Li's fan since 1999.

"As a father of two daughters, Danish Fed Cup captain Michael Mortensen seems more capable of understanding women," the fan from Li's hometown added. "With his help, Li has become more sophisticated in attitudes and is no longer anxious for victory during the match."

Pan agreed that Mortensen played a key role in Li's improvement. "Nobody knows better about Li than her husband does. But they needed a break because the husband was too close to the wife to overlook some shortcomings that he was used to."

"Li asked the right person for help, who taught her to take it easy, by telling her that some errors are bearable. It is exactly what high-level players like Li should do before major events," Pan said.

Jiang, who is also from Wuhan and married Li in 2006, has coached her throughout her career but had to take a back seat beginning in April this year. Li said that the replacement was caused by the five straight defeats following her loss at the Australian Open.

Another former coach Yu Liqiao said Li's victory at the French Open showed she was much more mature than before and was strong enough to deal with different kinds of opponents on different types of courts.

She said considering all the hardship she went through, Li deserved the singles title and would stand among the top tennis players in the world.

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