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Li Na looks to make more history

Pioneering Li Na aims to make more tennis history by becoming the oldest leading player in the game as well as the first super-rich player from communist China.

Li, 30, secured her financial future and sought to extend her career soon after famously becoming the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam title at the French Open last year.

Now with the support of a renowned Belgian coach and a well-known American entrepreneur she has created a highly knowledgeable team around her that could see her last till her mid-30s.

She should also make many tens of millions of dollars more than she expected.

Whether these ground-breaking achievements will help to enable compatriot players to follow Li's uniquely independent path is now a contentious issue.

She was carefully evasive when asked about money but very forthright about the influence of Carlos Rodriguez, who coached Justine Henin to seven Grand Slam titles and is now helping to prolong Li's top level career.


"He has changed a lot," Li said. "And the first two days I hated it all because I had to change all the things from long ago.

"So, first two days I always fight - not against Carlos, I was fighting against myself! But after one or two weeks I was getting better and better."

Though they have still only been together for two months, Li thinks Rodriguez is a significant reason why she found the extra push to snatch the last place at the WTA Championships starting in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Already the first Chinese player ever to take part in the women's tour's flagship event, Li is now one of the elite eight qualifiers for the second successive year.

She may also have gained mental strength from the enterprise of Max Eisenbud, who helped make Maria Sharapova the world's highest paid female athlete and recently negotiated a three-year deal for Li reportedly worth $US48 million ($A46.7 million).

Tossed a question about the likely effects of this wealth, Li wisely decided against catching the political hot potato, instead hinting at its effect upon the longevity of her career.

"Right now I am feeling healthy. I can still run around the court. I can still play good tennis.

"I never think about when I should retire, because right now I really enjoy my tennis life. I will enjoy every second of every day."

This attitude suggests that Li, who is fed up with being 'retired' by the media, will continue for some time, generating a yet higher profile both for herself and for a pragmatic People's Republic of China.