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Report says Li Na will retire on Friday in Wuhan

Updated: 2014-09-18 13:19

Report says Li Na will retire on Friday in Wuhan

Li Na of China reacts after falling during her women's singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Jan 26, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

Report says Li Na will retire on Friday in Wuhan

'Li Na Building' unveiled in Shanghai

Report says Li Na will retire on Friday in Wuhan

Li Na, coach Carlos Rodriguez part ways 

There have been persistent reports the last few months that Li Na, the Chinese mega-star who won the Australian Open this year, is about to retire.

The latest from a Chinese news outlet, citing insiders, says management company IMG will hold a press conference on Friday in Li's hometown of Wuhan to make the announcement.

The report states that Li traveled to Germany, where she has based her operation in recent years because of proximity to the medical team that has kept her ailing right knee fit for play, on Sept 2. The news was that not only is the right knee in poor shape, but the left knee is getting worse as well.

The intricate tape job on Li's right knee has been a staple of her on-court gear for years. She's already had several surgeries on it and in her memoirs, detailed the painful procedures she has had to undergo just to stay on court.

During the US Open, tennis broadcaster Mary Carillo said Li was planning to retire after the China Open in Beijing, which follows Wuhan on the schedule. Li's IMG agent, Max Eisenbud, shot the rumors down.

The inaugural tournament in Li's hometown ("town" is an inadequate word to describe a city of some 10 million people) is a Premier event and required the shuffling of other events on the WTA Tour calendar, meaning the talent has been stretched to the breaking point the last two weeks following the US Open with three tournaments each week, and most of the major players on a break.

The women's tour is banking on tournaments in this part of the world for its future, part of its mission to "grow its global brand" that includes moving the year-end championships to Singapore and greatly expanding the format.

You hope it's not true–not just for Li's sake, or for women's tennis as a whole, but specifically for the Wuhan event. Li's retirement would be massive news in China, and would completely overshadow the tournament just as the qualifying is getting under way.

When it was first conceived, the obvious attraction in putting an event in that part of the world was Li herself being from there. And her participation in its first edition has been a shaky proposition at best, since she has been out for nearly three months leading up to it.

Li hasn't played since losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova; she lost in the first round at the French Open (a tournament she won in 2011) to Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic. As well, coach Carlos Rodriguez, under pressure from the tennis club he works for in China to get back to his day job, left his job as her coach around that time. It's been a tough year.

The Wuhan event is an ambitious, expensive undertaking; Sven Groeneveld, the coach of Maria Sharapova, was there this week on a site visit and reported that not only were the facilities expansive, a new 15,000-seat stadium was in the planning stages - huge for even a Grand Slam, let alone a women-only event in a new and completely untested market.

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