For China’s other top tennis players, Li Na‘s breakthrough win at the French Open last year is a source of inspiration. If she can do it, they can do it, too.
Zheng Jie, a former semifinalist at the Australian Open, joined Li in the fourth round on Saturday with a dominating 6-3, 6-3 victory over ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France.
She said Li’s win at Roland Garros last year — along with her march to the Australian Open final before that — not only encouraged more Chinese children to take up the sport, but made her believe she could capture a major, as well. “A lot of years ago we practiced together,” Zheng said of Li. “We (were) never thinking we can win singles Grand Slam. I think (her win) gives me more confidence.”
Zheng has been close before. She and Li both made the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2010 — the first time any Chinese player had advanced that far in Melbourne. She also made the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2008.
Zheng has been ranked as high as No. 15, but she struggled last year after coming back from wrist surgery. Feeling fit again, she’s off to a quick start in 2012, winning an Australian Open tuneup event in Auckland, New Zealand.
Li Na lost to Kim Cljister in the 4th round of the Australian Open yesterday.