Sport

Married to his job no more

Top Chinese tennis star sacks husband and returns to form

Just before she fired him...

Firing people is never a pleasant task, and particularly so if the person in question is your husband. But that’s the sort of ‘tough love’ decision that Chinese tennis ace, Li Na recently had to take with her coach, who has been told to pack his bags – in employment terms.

Li shot to global prominence at the start of the year when she got to the final of the Australian Open – becoming the first Chinese player to make it to the last two of a tennis grand slam.

Since then her performance on court has been poor, and she has decided her hubby is to blame.

The lowpoint came when Li exited the Dubai Tennis Championship in the first round. According to the Wuhan Evening News, she could then be seen scolding her husband in their native Wuhan dialect.

She has since admitted that husband Jiang Shan was not up to the job.

“I don’t care what people think of the move,” Li told Reuters. “My confidence was low and I felt I had to change my coach.”

Jiang’s own thoughts on events go unrecorded. But he lasted barely three months in the role, after stepping in when Li’s former coach left her for Maria Sharapova.

Li has opted for a European to help turn around her flagging season (she’s made four first round exits this year). The new guy is Michael Mortensen, a former Danish Fed Cup captain. And progess looks good. Soon after he began coaching her, Li got to the semi-final of both the Madrid Open and the recent Internazionali BNL Italia.

Li says the key thing she gets from her new coach is psychological encouragement.

“After playing tennis for two decades a new coach won’t change my technique much. But he can give me confidence. Every time I gain a point I look at Michael, who then gives me encouragement; it can be just a look, but this is what I need.”

Quite how Jiang accommodates these glowing glances or thinks about being sacked goes without comment.

But in spite of terminating her spouse’s job, Li says the relationship between couple is strong. When asked what she wants to do after she retires, Li told Reuters she looks forward to becoming a housewife and looking after her family.


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