Fellow mum Li Na hails Serena comeback

Li has been extremely impressed by Serena Williams' performances in Wimbledon thus far.

Li is 36 and a mother like Williams, but Asia's greatest-ever player quit the tour four years ago and now concentrates on bringing up her young family in Beijing. (File Photo)   -  Getty Images

Li Na said that she was stunned by Serena Williams' impressive comeback from giving birth and said that her old rival has a golden chance to reclaim her Wimbledon crown.

Li is 36 and a mother like Williams, but Asia's greatest-ever player quit the tour four years ago and now concentrates on bringing up her young family in Beijing.

The 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open champion is not tempted to make a comeback of her own, as she watches seven-time Wimbledon winner Williams compete at the All England Club for the first time since the US great won the 2016 title.

“How fit she looks, especially after having a baby. I think she has a very big chance to win the trophy again,” the former world number two told reporters at the All England Club.

“I'm surprised she's playing so well. It's very tough, especially for women, to find the balance between your children and tennis. But, I think she's doing well."

“After four years, I'm still not trying to come back. Especially for the woman, the body changes a lot. And, you have at least four or five months where you can't sleep for the whole night. When the baby cries or moves, the woman always wakes up the very next second, so it's very tough.”

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- Family first -

Few female players have succeeded at Grand Slam level after becoming mums. Belgium's Kim Clijsters returned to win the 2009 US Open, while Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley won majors after giving birth in an era when the physical demands on players were less intense.

Li said that she did not miss playing on the tour, but did miss the rough and tumble of testing herself against the best.

“I live in Beijing. My life is much more relaxed, not like an athlete where you have to put pressure on yourself every second. Now, I'm just relaxed, I take care of the family and my husband helps a lot, so that makes it much easier for me."

“I only take care about the family. I like cooking, but I don't like cleaning. We have a nanny who does that. I don't really miss the tour, but I miss the fighting competition. You don't find that in normal life.”

Williams faces Italy's Camila Giorgi in Tuesday's Wimbledon quarterfinals and despite being seeded 25th, is yet to face another seed, with all the top 10 tumbling out early.

“When a player wins four rounds already, everyone has got a chance because now the draw is pretty open. This is tennis. Nobody is walking on the court saying 'OK, I'll give you a free match.' Everyone is fighting a lot,” said Li.

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- Chinese rise -

Li is playing with Japan's Ai Sugiyama in the ladies' invitation doubles at Wimbledon. “I've taken my whole family to London to look around the city because for them it is the first time in London. They will watch me play, here, at Wimbledon,” she said.

Li has inspired a new generation of Chinese female tennis players and the sport is growing in her homeland, with tournaments and facilities mushrooming.

“It's very good for the players and very good for the fans. For the players, you don't need to have long travelling, you can just stay in the country, you can play big tournaments and come face to face with the top players. It's a very good chance for them,” said Li.

Wang Xinyu (seeded fourth), Wang Xiyu (seeded 10th) and Zheng Qinwen are through to the last 16 of the Wimbledon girls' singles and Li has been running an eye over them.

“When I saw the three Chinese juniors play over these last couple of days, the way they hit the ball is so fast. I'm not strong like them!” she said.

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