Saturday, January 26, 2013

Australian Open Day 13: Na Li

Curtain Call

Player: Na Li
Age: 30
Nation: China
Current Ranking: 6
Notable Conquests: Maria Sharapova (2nd seed, Russia), Agnieszka Radwanska (4th, Poland)
Today's Result: loss to Victoria Azarenka (1st, Belarus) in three sets
Photo via Australian Open

In a sport of grunters, preeners and hypochondriacs, Na Li is a breath of fresh air.  She is gracious, intelligent and downright funny, even in a language clearly not her first.  To me, her claiming of the French Open title in 2011 is one of the best moments in tennis over the past few years.  Already the most successful Asian singles player in history, this was her second time making the final in Melbourne.


  1. 'She is gracious, intelligent and downright funny, even in a language clearly not her first.'

    Really like this.

    1. Li's definitely your kind of people, Suze!

    2. And actually, English is not my first language. I learned it by immersion as a four-year-old in nursery school.

    3. I think multilingualism is one of the world's most under-appreciated gifts. It's gotta be handy in the Southwest. Do you ever post in Spanish?

    4. Only comments.

      I did write a post fully in Spanish once for Analog Breakfast but it never aired.

    5. Learning as a child is such an enormous advantage. My own Japanese, for all of the time I spent there, is pretty worthless. However, since I was there as a child, there are some things I do well. My accent and lingual cadence are great. As one, genuinely bilingual friend points out, I fool people into thinking I know a lot more than I do simply because I sound right. We were both in New York for a while after I got back and he'd always make me order when we were in a Japanese restaurant for the practice. So long ago now...

    6. I've wondered about your fluency in Japanese. Enlightening comment.

    7. By the time I left, I had what I would call very functional Japanese. I could order food in a restaurant. I could get a cab to my apartment. I could read train maps and train schedules. I recognized most of the really important kanji (characters). My conversational Japanese, on the other hand, was never very good for the simple reason that I didn't need it. The Tokyo area is very accommodating for an English-speaker and I had an extremely gratifying social life with native English speakers and Japanese nationals whose English was far better than my Japanese. In some ways, I regret not devoting more time to study but big picture, I had such a marvelous time that regretting anything seems stupid.

      If you asked me to translate a word, I could probably come up with the answer faster in French or German simply for the fact that I studied those languages in a different way: in the classroom. However, if you were to plop me down in my choice of Paris, Berlin or Tokyo, I'd pick Tokyo every time because my functional command of the language - even now - is much stronger.

    8. 'I had such a marvelous time that regretting anything seems stupid.'

      This is an excellent perspective, B. This whole account is packed with wonderful detail. How many beautiful things are tucked into a life.