They Are Legend In Woman's Tennis!

Rebel, survivor, pinup, sweetheart, pit bull, rock chick, ice queen: female tennis players sure seem to get labeled a lot. And while that kind of media sizzle makes tournaments like Wimbledon a hot ticket, it doesn't begin to sum up the resilience and power of the sport's biggest stars. Find out what drives the greatest players of the past 40 years, from Billie Jean King to Li Na.

Margaret Court

Margaret Court

Born to poor parents in New South Wales, Australia, Margaret Court, now 68, grew up with an inferiority complex. Her family didn't have a television or a car, and her first tennis racket was fashioned from the stakes of an old wooden fence. She eventually turned it into gold. Court upped the ante in on-court power and off-court training, giving her an edge over rivals like Billie Jean King and Maria Bueno throughout the 1960s. In 1970 she completed the Grand Slam, becoming only the second woman (after Maureen Connolly) to do so, and she continued to play throughout the '70s after she had given birth to three children (she actually contested the 1971 Wimbledon final while pregnant with her first son).

She ultimately won 62 Grand Slam titles — including 24 in singles — a record that no other woman is likely to match. She's now a Pentecostal pastor in Perth.

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

After winning Wimbledon in 1968, the men's champion, Rod Laver, walked away with $4,800. Billie Jean King, the women's champion, left with just $1,800. At other events, the gap in pay was even wider. King — who won 129 career titles, including 12 Grand Slam single titles — fought to change that. As the dominant force in tennis at the time, she had the most to lose by spending time campaigning for reform rather than focusing solely on tennis.

But she never lost sight of the bigger picture, and she turned her back on the U.S. Tennis Association as leader of the "Original 9" group of women who fought for gender equality in tennis. "We had one dream, and that was to create an opportunity where any girl — if she was good enough — could make a living playing professional tennis," King, now 67, tells TIME. "Today they are living the dream, and we need to continue to make progress for all girls. Women from around the globe have chosen tennis as a career, and I am so proud of the champions in our sport as they truly embody our vision from 1970."

In 1973, King defeated former men's No. 1 Bobby Riggs in a nationally televised matched dubbed the Battle of the Sexes. (Riggs, who played the role of male chauvinist rather well, had beaten Margaret Court in a similar televised match earlier that year and spent the interim taunting female players.) In 1981 King became the first professional female athlete to come out as a lesbian.

Rosie Casals

Rosie Casals

Rosie Casals, now 62, entered tennis as an outsider and a long shot: she was the 5-ft.-2 daughter of immigrants to the U.S. from El Salvador. "The other kids had nice tennis clothes, nice rackets, nice white shoes, and came in Cadillacs," Casals once told People. "I felt stigmatized because we were poor." She got over it — and she forced the rest of the tennis world to as well. Fiery and charismatic, she overcame her height through first-rate attacking and a wide range of shots (including one between her legs), and racked up 90 titles during her two decades of play.

A natural rebel, she fought the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association to boost the profile of the women's game and increase the prize money awarded to women. When the USLTA refused, she and the rest of the Original 9 set up their own series of tournaments, which became the Virginia Slims Tour. Casals won its first event in Houston in 1970. The schism ultimately led to the formation of the Women's Tennis Association.

Virginia Wade

Virginia Wade

The daughter of a British archdeacon, Virginia Wade, now 65, took up tennis as a child growing up in South Africa and honed her game when she moved back to England at 15. She earned a university degree in mathematics and physics before going on to win the first-ever Open Era tournament at Bournemouth in 1968 and the U.S. Open the same year. In the late '60s, Wade distanced herself from the so-called Original 9 — the female players, including Billie Jean King and Kerry Melville Reid, who set up their own tennis circuit to protest the lack of exposure and lower prize money female players received relative to their male counterparts. Wade avoided political wrangling and, if anything, sided with the Establishment (though she eventually became a regular on the new tour). She's perhaps best known for winning Wimbledon on her 17th try in 1977 — the Queen's jubilee year and Wimbledon's centenary. No British player has come close since.

Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong

The daughter of a poor Aboriginal sheep shearer, Evonne Goolagong shot down the notion that tennis stars had to be groomed at the country club. Born in 1951 — 16 years before Australia even recognized Aborigines in its census — she took up the sport after an encouraging neighbor spotted her peering through the fence at a local court. A Sydney tennis instructor got wind of her raw talent and persuaded her parents to let Goolagong move to his academy to train when she turned 16. Three years later, in 1971, she burst onto the world scene to win both the French Open and Wimbledon. In 1980 she won a second Wimbledon title, becoming the first mother to win a major in the Open Era. "When I was 19, I didn't appreciate it," she told Sports Illustrated in 1998. "But in '80, I had a child and nobody expected much. That was amazingly sweet." A seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, 59-year-old Goolagong now campaigns for Aboriginal rights and runs the Goolagong National Development Camp, which encourages Aboriginal children to play competitive tennis.

Chris Evert

Chris Evert

With her girl-next-door looks and blond locks, Chris Evert earned the nickname America's Sweetheart and became one of the first tennis celebrities of the TV era. Born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1954, she had a traditional feminine deportment that made parents more comfortable with their daughters' taking up the sport, and her rivalry with Martina Navratilova fueled interest in the women's game throughout the 1970s and '80s. She pioneered the two-handed backhand, which allowed her to push through shots with unmatched power, paving the way for power baseline players like Monica Seles. Her career win-loss record of 1,304–144 (.900) remains the best of any professional player in tennis history. She also holds records for consecutive wins on any surface — 125 on clay — and for winning at least one Grand Slam title for 13 consecutive years beginning in 1974.

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova

Born in Prague, Martina Navratilova wanted to conquer the tennis world, and she knew she had a better shot at doing that in the U.S. than in communist Czechoslovakia. "The [Czech] tennis federation did not let me play the tournaments I wanted to play," she says, noting that it routinely denied her visas to tournaments in the West. So during the 1975 U.S. Open, American authorities helped her defect, the Czech government subsequently stripped her of her citizenship, and she went on to dominate women's tennis, winning 18 Grand Slam singles titles. She holds the record for career titles (167), consecutive Wimbledon singles titles (6) and Grand Slam doubles titles (31). Her unprecedented off-court training program and dietary regime raised the bar for everyone and helped her bring down barriers of ageism. In 2003 she became the oldest-ever Grand Slam champion by winning the women's doubles at Wimbledon at age 46.

Tracy Austin

Tracy Austin

In 1979, 16-year-old Tracy Austin became the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open when she defeated four-time defending champion Chris Evert 6-4, 6-3. Austin's deep and unerring ground strokes led her to the title at Flushing Meadows again in 1981, and despite recurring sciatica, she intermittently held the No. 1 ranking. But by 1983, back and neck problems had taken their toll, forcing her to take a four-year hiatus from the sport. Austin was unable to fulfill her promise, which could have seen her challenge Evert and Martina Navratilova, the dominant forces of the decade. Today's age restrictions, designed to protect young players from physical and mental burnout, can be traced to Austin. Now 48, she's a sought-after commentator and covers Wimbledon for the BBC.

Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf's father, a car-insurance salesman from Brühl, Germany, taught her how to swing a racket in their living room when she turned 3. She never stopped. Although Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert hit the ball hard, Graf brought new explosiveness to the game: her forehand remains one of the greatest shots in women's tennis. She contested 31 Grand Slam singles finals and won 22 of them (with at least four titles at each Grand Slam tournament). In 1988 she completed the calendar-year Grand Slam by winning all four majors, and walked away at age 19 with an Olympic gold medal to boot. An enigmatic champion, she let her racket do the talking, and remains mysterious as a result. Reflecting on her career, Graf, 42, tells TIME, "Although the achievement of all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1988 stands out as my greatest accomplishment in tennis, my life with the family and watching the kids grow gives me greater joy than my tennis achievements."

Gabriela Sabatini

Gabriela Sabatini

In 1985, 15-year-old Gabriela Sabatini became the youngest-ever player to reach the semifinals of the French Open and finished the year in the top 10, where she stayed for nearly a decade. Her movie-star looks turned her into one of South America's biggest stars — the media referred to her as the Pearl of the Pampas and the Divine Argentine — and she displayed another kind of beauty on the court, where her topspin tricks and sweeping backhand remain legendary. She defeated Steffi Graf in the final of the 1990 U.S. Open to win her only Grand Slam singles title. Well aware that she played second string to contemporaries like Graf and Monica Seles, she has denied that their greatness influenced her decision to retire in 1996. "I didn't have the desire to win," she told Charlie Rose at the time. "I don't think they had anything to do with this. It had more to do with me." Now 41, she has her own line of fragrances, which include Devotion and Latin Dance.

Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario

Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario

Her ability to chase down the most distant ball earned Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario the nickname Barcelona Bumblebee. That, coupled with her dogged clay-court style, helped her rise to No. 1 in both singles and doubles — no easy feat in an era that included greats like Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini. She ultimately won four Grand Slam singles titles — three at the French, one at the U.S. Open — and 10 more in doubles. Now 39 and a celebrity chairwoman for children's cancer research in Spain, she also led Spain to five Fed Cup titles between 1991 and 1998 and holds the distinction of winning more Fed Cup matches than any other player. She enjoys listening to Phil Collins and Gloria Estefan, and she rides horses.

Monica Seles

Monica Seles

Born in Serbia, Monica Seles, now 37, burst onto the professional tennis scene as a 14-year-old and by the end of her first year on the tour had climbed to No. 6 in the world. Known for her aggressive game and for introducing the grunt to women's tennis, she became the youngest player ever to win the French Open in 1990, when she defeated Germany's Steffi Graf, the reigning queen of tennis, in straight sets. She went on to win seven of the eight Grand Slams that she entered from 1991 until 1993. In April 1993 she was stabbed on a court in Hamburg by a fan obsessed with Graf. Seles sank into a deep depression and began binge eating to cope. "I felt empty and damaged inside," she later wrote in her memoir. "All I wanted to do was stuff myself with empty and damaging food." Despite her personal struggle, she managed to return to tennis two years after the attack and, remarkably, won the 1996 Australian Open. Seles, who began training with Nick Bollettieri in Florida in 1986, became a U.S. citizen in 1994 and now resides in Sarasota, Fla.

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

Drawing on her tactical instinct and unmatched finesse, Martina Hingis championed an elegant style of play that has slowly been replaced by power — and a whole lot of grunting. Born in present-day Slovakia, she clutched her first racket at the age of 2 and entered her first tournament at the age of 4. (Her mother, a top tennis player in the former Czechoslovakia, named her after Czech tennis legend Martina Navratilova and moved young Hingis to Switzerland after a divorce.) In 1997, at 16 years and 3 months, she became the youngest Grand Slam singles champion of the 20th century and, three months later, the youngest No. 1 ever. A series of ligament injuries sidelined her at age 22. She staged a brief comeback during 2006 and 2007, rising to No. 6 in the world, but retired after testing positive for cocaine (she denies ever taking the drug). Now 30, she married Thibault Hutin, a French equestrian show jumper, in December 2010.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

Before her first professional tournament, when she was just 14 and wearing cornrows, Venus Williams had the audacity to tell Sports Illustrated, "I think I can change the game." That proved prescient. Williams — who honed her skills at a public park in Compton, Calif., while gang members guarded the grounds — brought explosive power to women's tennis, setting a Grand Slam record with her 129-m.p.h. serve in 2007. Beginning in 2002, when Williams earned the No. 1 ranking, she and her younger sister Serena faced each other in four consecutive Grand Slam singles finals — the first time two players (related or not) had done that. Although Serena has eclipsed Venus professionally — the younger Williams holds 13 Grand Slam singles titles to the elder's seven — it's Venus who remains the steadier, more diplomatic half of the intriguing sister act. After extensive campaigning, she helped persuade the All England Club to award men and women equal prize money at Wimbledon beginning in 2007. She went on to win that tournament and pocketed $1.4 million, the same amount as men's champ Roger Federer. She turned 31 on June 17, 2011, just three days before Wimbledon began.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Critics dismiss as distractions Serena Williams' off-court pursuits, which have included acting, launching a collection of handbags and completing 240 hours of course work to become a certified nail technician. But those pursuits likely account for some of her longevity: she won the 2010 Australian Open and Wimbledon more than a decade after her first Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open, and despite repeated injuries, she's attained the No. 1 ranking on five occasions. Her powerful ground strokes, lightning-fast serve and relentless pursuit of the ball led her father to describe her as "a combination of a pit bull dog, Mike Tyson and an alligator." But Williams, 29, has a gentle side too. "Tennis is my job, but it's not my life," she says. "Away from a tournament, you wouldn't even recognize me. I'm Serena Williams on the court, but away I have so many different names. I call myself Butterfly."

Justine Henin

Justine Henin

Justine Henin's steely determination and cool demeanor didn't endear her to the masses, nor did her retiring from the 2006 Australian Open final as a result of intense stomach pain. But even her critics have to respect her sublime one-handed backhand, described by John McEnroe as the best in the women's or men's game. Standing at just 5 ft. 5 in., she managed to rise to No. 1 by utilizing her immense speed and precise footwork, which helped her win seven Grand Slam singles titles, including four straight wins at Roland Garros, most recently in 2007. In memory of her mother, who died of cancer when she was 12, Henin, now 29 and retired, runs Justine's Winners Circle, a charity that grants wishes to children with cancer and assists their families financially.

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters

Critics have always said Kim Clijsters lacks the killer instinct that defines greats like Monica Seles and Serena Williams. She rose to No. 1 anyway. The Belgian, who won the U.S. Open in 2005 with her well-placed ground strokes, retired in 2007 so she could have a baby. But in March 2009, in the lead-up to an exhibition match at Wimbledon, Clijsters, then 25, announced that she was returning, partly to help cope with the loss of her father, who had died of skin cancer two months earlier. "Coming back helped me get rid of a lot of emotions," she says. "I was able to talk with my trainer and my coach about my dad, and it helped me to grieve in a way." In only her third tournament after giving birth, she won the 2009 U.S. Open. She struck another blow for working moms by defending her title in 2010 and winning the 2011 Australian Open. She credits daughter Jada for her rise to No. 2 in the rankings: "Being a mother is much harder than being an athlete. Everything has to be organized a lot better now, so I have a better approach toward my tennis career."

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Anna Kournikova — the glamorous Muscovite who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1997 — showed Russian tennis players what was possible. But it was Maria Sharapova who confirmed that they could have it all — if they worked really, really hard. She won Wimbledon at 17, went on to take titles at the U.S. Open and Australian Open and earned the No. 1 ranking on four occasions. Ferociously determined, her credibility as an athlete forms the basis of her huge commercial success. According to Forbes, Sharapova, now 24 years old, pocketed $24.5 million in 2010 — more than any other female athlete. In January 2010, Nike extended its sponsorship deal with Sharapova for eight more years, for a total of $70 million — the most lucrative deal ever for a sportswoman. She's no longer the wide-eyed teen who won Wimbledon in 2004 — and that would make a victory in 2011 even more significant. As she says, "my win at Wimbledon at age 17 was something very special for me and my family. But if I were to win Wimbledon for a second time after coming back from a very tough shoulder surgery, that would have to be my greatest win."

Vera Zvonareva

Vera Zvonareva

Brutally honest, Vera Zvonareva's personal website describes the "row of failures" that knocked her out of the top 10 to a lowly ranking of 42nd in 2005. By 2010, however, the 26-year-old had gone on to reach the finals of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon and had risen to No. 2 in the world — all while pursuing a degree in international economic relations in Moscow. "I want to have knowledge outside of tennis. I think it's important to develop yourself as a player and as a person," she says. "The more opportunities I give myself will hopefully make it easier to make a choice of what I want to do after my tennis career." She's also creating opportunities for others. Since 2008, Zvonareva has been involved in fundraising and campaigning to help children with Rett syndrome, a rare and debilitating disease that stunts growth and causes seizures, particularly among girls.

Samantha Stosur

Samantha Stosur

Samantha Stosur stumbled into tennis at the age of 6 after a flood destroyed her family's home in Brisbane, Australia. The family — which lost everything — moved to Adelaide with just $5,000, and her parents worked round the clock running a café. To keep Stosur occupied, her older brother hit balls with her at the park, and eventually persuaded his parents to enroll Stosur in tennis lessons. By the end of 2006, she had risen to No. 1 in doubles and cracked the top 30 in singles. But in 2007 a diagnosis of Lyme disease — and the accompanying pain and lethargy — sidelined her for months. "It definitely showed me that I should appreciate what I can do," says Stosur, 27. "When you wake up and get told you can't play for a certain amount of time, it's a big eye opener and a wake-up call that if you do get to come back, to make the most of it." She did. After overcoming the disease, Stosur became one of the fittest players on the tour and defeated three former top-ranked players en route to reaching the 2010 French Open final. By early 2011, she had risen to No. 4 in the world.

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic

As a teenager in war-torn Yugoslavia, Ana Ivanovic practiced in the early morning to avoid bomb raids. When all the courts were destroyed, she used an abandoned swimming pool. "Tennis was definitely a distraction from the war and all of the bad things that were going on in the country at the time," she says. "Tennis kept me focused and let me enjoy my childhood and hang out with children my age." Peace came, and Ivanovic went on to earn the No. 1 ranking after winning the French Open for Serbia in 2008. Since then, she has struggled to maintain form, and fell to No. 65 in July 2010. But the 23-year-old has shown flashes of the greatness that took her to the top: she won two tournaments at the end of 2010, and has clawed her way back to No. 18 entering Wimbledon in 2011. Ivanovic does not credit her wartime experiences for her success: "War made me tougher, and it made me appreciate tennis a bit more, but I think I would have had a talent for tennis no matter where I grew up."

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Fellow players have dubbed Bethanie Mattek-Sands the "rock chick" of tennis because of her tattoos and penchant for motorcycles and the fact that she wore a black dress to her wedding. The 26-year-old brings her free-spirited ways to the court, where she wears knee-high socks and black antiglare paint; at the pre-Wimbledon players' party on June 16, 2011, she wore a dress made out of tennis balls à la Lady Gaga. "Tennis has a reputation as being conservative and uppity, but there are so many girls that have big personalities," says Mattek-Sands. "I want to be colorful, and I want the younger generation to get into tennis. It's just me being myself." And while folks can't help but talk about her fashion, they should also talk about her game. Previously the third-highest-ranked American on the tour after the Williams sisters, she has surpassed Venus Williams in the rankings (reaching No. 31), and she carried the U.S. Fed Cup team to the 2010 final.

Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska

What she lacks in power, she makes up for in cunning. Agnieszka Radwanska, 22, relies on tactical accuracy and her understanding of geometry to outfox her opponents, skills that have drawn comparisons to Martina Hingis. As early as 2006, when she was just 17, Radwanska began to upset top players, including Venus Williams. By 2008, she had defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova and had clawed her way into the top 10. That year she became the first Polish player to earn more than $1 million in prize money. By mid-2011, she had earned more than $5 million.

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka knows that her notorious grunting makes Monica Seles sound tame — and she remains unapologetic about it. The 21-year-old Belarusian says the shrieking helps her accelerate and deliver more power to the ball — skills that have taken her to the quarterfinals at four Grand Slams and helped her climb to No. 4 in the world rankings in 2011. Azarenka, a fierce baseliner, moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., when she was 15 thanks to generous support from hockey star Nikolai Khabibulin and his wife, a friend of her mother's. She attributes the rise of tennis stars from the former Soviet Union to the economic turmoil that followed its collapse. As she says, "a lot of the players come from families who don't have money, so they have that extra hunger to try and become somebody."

Yanina Wickmayer

Yanina Wickmayer

Belgian Yanina Wickmayer didn't pick up a tennis racket until she turned 9. That year her mother died of cancer, and Yanina's father introduced her to the sport as a distraction from her grief. After he arranged a visit to the Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Florida, she fell wholeheartedly for the sport — and was perhaps inspired by the school's more seasoned students, including Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati. Now 21 years old, she reached the semifinals of the 2009 U.S. Open and has become an anchor of Belgium's Fed Cup team. Outside of tennis, she enjoys rap music and eating french fries.

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

In November 2010, 20-year-old Caroline Wozniacki surged past Serena Williams to grab the No. 1 ranking — and she's holding tight. Wozniacki has won more matches than any other player on the tour this year and has done so without any of the swagger that could accompany a woman who has contested a Grand Slam final and counts Rolex as a sponsor. The daughter of Polish immigrants to Denmark, she speaks six languages — including Russian and Swedish — and keeps busy off the court by playing the piano and baking with her mom. "I love the entertainment business, so if I weren't playing tennis, maybe I'd be an actress or something along those lines," she says. She also has ambitions to attend Yale University when she hangs up her racket. "I think they have an architecture major, so I would love to study that, and also English."

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

In 2008, Petra Kvitova, then a 17-year-old ranked No. 143 in the world, made headlines by upsetting former top-ranked Venus Williams at a tournament in Memphis. She woke her father back in the Czech Republic at 3 a.m. to tell him the good news and describe her first-ever press conference. Capable of playing fearlessly and ferociously in clutch situations, she's gone on to reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, and she spearheads the Czech Republic's Fed Cup team, which, in November 2011, will make its first appearance in the final since Czechoslovakia split two decades ago. She's reached a career-high ranking of No. 8, but it doesn't seem to have gone to her head: she remains soft-spoken and humble and is frequently spotted chatting with friends and fans on crowded public walkways just 20 minutes before matches.

Andrea Petkovic

Andrea Petkovic

Born in Bosnia, Andrea Petkovic immigrated to Germany with her parents when she was just 6 months old. Her father, a former Yugoslav tennis player, coached her at a club in Darmstadt but insisted that she finish high school before pursuing tennis professionally. That patience has paid off. So far in 2011, Petkovic, 23, has reached the quarterfinals of the Australian and the French and achieved a career-high ranking of No. 11 in the world. She has also clocked more than 500,000 views on her popular YouTube channel, on which she raps, instructs viewers on her world-famous "Petko dance," plays the drums and guitar and occasionally mockingly calls herself "not only the most famous person in Germany but the most famous person in the entire world." She says keeping things light helps her on the court. "Tennis is my absolute priority, and I'll do anything to improve. But improving also involves turning tennis off and relaxing and recharging your batteries," she says. "Music is one way to do it. I'm really not good at the instruments I play, but I forget everything around me."

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

At 19, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the highest-ranked teenager in the world (No. 14). She first made headlines in 2006, when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki at the junior championships of the Australian Open. Since then, she's reached the quarterfinals at the 2011 Australian Open, defeated third-ranked Vera Zvonareva at Roland Garros and amassed nearly $2 million in prize money. "Russians have this fighting spirit, and all of us girls on the tour are always fighting through our matches," she says. Despite the success of Russian female tennis players in the past decade, they've faced some collective challenges. "To be honest, [establishing a career] in tennis wasn't as easy for us as it looks," she says. "Some of us didn't have any sponsors, Russia is quite far from Europe, and we didn't have international tournaments at home. We had to make the most of every opportunity." In an age when some female tennis stars are maturing later in their careers — Li Na and Francesca Schiavone won their first Grand Slam singles titles at age 29 — expect big things from the young Russian.

Li Na

Li Na

Easily recognized by the red rose tattoo on her chest, Li Na understands rebellion. In 2008 she split from the Chinese Tennis Association, which had been taking up to 65% of her tournament earnings. Under a Chinese pilot program for sports stars dubbed Fly Alone, she gave up state funding so that she could hold on to her millions in prize money and choose her coach (who, until recently, was also her husband). After winning the French Open in June 2011, the 29-year-old became the only Chinese tennis player ever to capture a Grand Slam singles title. Status as a national hero followed: 116 million Chinese tuned in to that match, one poll claimed that 44% of those viewers cried, and pundits have predicted that she can single-handedly inspire a generation of future Chinese champions. Li doesn't mind the lofty expectations. "I don't think of it as pressure. I try to do my best on the court every day," she says. "I always want to do well for me and for my team, and if I make people in China proud, that is also great."
 

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