Chinese tennis star Li Na
Chinese tennis star Li Na on Thursday became the fifth singles player to qualify for the prestigious TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships which would be held in Istanbul, Turkey on October 25-30, 2011, becoming the first Chinese singles player to book a spot on the WTA season-ending tournament.
"This year has been the most successful of my career so far and I'm very happy to have qualified," said Li Na. "I'm proud to be the first Chinese woman to qualify in singles for this event."
Li Na enjoyed a historic season in 2011, twice making into the Grand Slam finals and taking the title of Roland Garros. She turned out to be the first Asian singles player to become a Grand Slam champion.
Li equaled the Asian-best world number four ranking during the season. Her success aroused the tennis fever both at home and abroad. According to the stats of CCTV (China Central Television), her French Open final against Francesca Schiavone attracted more than 100 million audience to watch through TV.
"I congratulate Li Na on qualifying for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, marking a perfect end to her truly historic season," said Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA.
Li started to meet troubles after her great victory in June. She was knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon, and was eliminated in the opening round at US Open.
She also swallowed a first-round defeat at the ongoing China Open in Beijing, disappointing thousands of local spectators.
"I was tired, both physically and mentally. If I am qualified to Istanbul, I will play, or this match would become my last match in the season," said Li after losing the China Open match.
There are currently three places still open for five singles players, including Vera Zvonareva, Samantha Stosur, Marion Bartoli, Andrea Petkovic and Agnieszka Radwanska.
Istanbul is to be the host city of the WTA year-end finale through 2013. The event would attract the top eight singles players and the top four doubles players to compete for a total of 5 million dollar prize.