This year’s French Open champion Li Na defeated Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4 in the day’s opening match on Center Court as students from China’s Mountain Flowers Foundation watched.
The Foundation, part of China’s National Sports Foundation, is home to 12 girls, ages 8 to 13, from ethnic minority backgrounds, including Moso, Naxi, Pumi and Tibetan. Its efforts focus on the development of its girls through education and tennis training.
According to Mountain Flowers Foundation co-founder and 1984 Olympic volleyball gold medalist, Yang Xi, in a recent press release, "Cultural exchanges such as the Western & Southern Open and the events surrounding the tournament have the potential to leave a positive, long-term impact on our kids and open new opportunities for future collaboration with Western & Southern Financial Group."
Li also discussed the impact of her French Open win in her country. At first, she didn’t expect many to greet her upon returning to China due to an early loss at Wimbledon. She succumbed to German Sabine Lisicki, who went on to reach the semifinals, in the second round.
She was, however, in for a surprise. On the 5th of July celebration in Beijing she attended, "it was like warm, so warm, but still I think at least thousand people was coming just to say, ‘Well done, congratulations. I was feeling like, ‘Wow, now I’m star,’" she said.
Of the win against Safarova, Li said, "I think today I have a pretty good serve, and on her serve game, I just tried put a little bit pressure for her." She continued, "I know she’s dangerous player. I have to give more pressure for her and try to show the positive thing on the court and make her make mistake."
Li, seeded No. 5 in the tournament, appears in the same section of the draw as last year’s Cincinnati finalist Maria Sharapova and recent Toronto champion Serena Williams, who currently leads the Olympus US Open Series.
By Benjamin Snyder