Reigning US Open and Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters is out of this year’s US Open with an injury. Reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was upset in the first round. Now, reigning Roland Garros winner Li Na has been ousted as well. A few days ago I eviscerated Li Na’s game for her lackluster loss to Petra Cetkovska at New Haven. For all of her great talent, Li Na had no chance to win the 2011 US Open playing as she did against Petra. In her opening round match with Simona Halep, she was even worse. It wasn’t just the 54 unforced errors to 22 winners for Li. Rather, it was the way she looked like she was sleepwalking through the match. Believe me, the match wasn’t as close as the 6-2 7-5 score. It felt more like 2 and 3. I take nothing away from Halep. She is a rising star, the highest ranked teenager (at #53) left in the draw. Simona is a good player. She might even prove to be a great player. On this day, her strategy was very Wozniacki-like, just keep returning the ball and wait for the opponent to make errors. Li Na did just that. The Roland Garros 2011 champion looked like she wanted to be anywhere but on court.
I understand that Li Na’s life has changed since winning in Paris. It’s ok to lose. But on this day, it looked like she wasn’t motivated to win. It’s possible that what she has dealt with this year following her sudden stardom has worn her out emotionally. I hope that she recharges her batteries and refocuses. She is at an advanced age for a tennis player. She might not have many years at the top left in her body. I am a huge fan of hers. I don’t criticize her effort today or against Petra in New Haven out of any animosity. Quite the opposite. I see such great potential in her to go beyond even her Roland Garros win. I also see the sand in the hourglass.