CCTV, the Chinese state-owned news outlet, is reporting that reigning Australian Open champion, Li Na, will announce her retirement according to her agent, Max Eisenbud:
#LiNa, China’s two-time Grand Slam winner, expected to announce #retirement due to injuries, according to her agent pic.twitter.com/3fTFL9hYvOLi, who reached a career-high of No. 2 in the rankings, withdrew from all the summer hard-court tourneys, including the US Open, to deal with a recurring knee injury.
— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) September 18, 2014
If she does retire, it will be unfortunate timing for the WTA. Asia has been a big focus for the women's tour recently, and Li is the region's most recognizable star (and the second highest-earning female athlete in the world behind Maria Sharapova). The season-ending WTA Championships was moved from Turkey to Singapore this year for the first time. Moreover, the inaugural tournament in Li's hometown of Wuhan is set to begin next week (she's still on the competitor's list).
I'll update this post if and when the news is confirmed.
UPDATE: Li Na confirmed the retirement reports in a lengthy and beautifully written post on Facebook. You can read it here. It's a MUST. Maria Sharapova, also represented by Eisenbud, posted a note on her FB page saying:
A truly respected athlete and person, wishing Li Na much happiness and health in her next chapters of life.We hear about the injuries and sometimes see them as they happen, but I don't think we ever really know the extent of the pain and suffering some of these athletes endure on a regular basis all in the name of competition and performance. By her own account, she was suffering significantly and more than I even understood.
It makes sense. She has nothing to prove on-court, and off-court she has seen the fruits of her labor born out in front of her eyes. Even in retirement, Li will continue to inspire others in her country and around the world to overcome adversity and achieve their dreams. She is a trailblazer the likes we don't see very often. And it's not just about her tennis; the way she handled herself on-court and in interviews was stellar. Seriously, there's really no one on the WTA tour that can cut up the way Li does. SERIOUSLY.
Thank you, Li Na.
[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images]