CHINA - While there is no official confirmation of Li Na's pending retirement, the Chinese tennis ace received an overwhelming number of good wishes from fans across the Internet - around 13 million.
Since Thursday morning, several Chinese websites cited insiders as saying that Li, 32, will announce her retirement on Friday because of a serious knee injury.
Other reports said that Li's management company, IMG, will hold a news conference to announce her decision on Sunday and that a farewell ceremony will be held during the China Open, scheduled for Sept 27 to Oct 5 in Beijing.
The articles sparked more than 13 million comments and views as of 6 pm on Thursday, with most of the netizens sending blessings to Li for her future life.
"I know you will call it a day, but I don't expect it's too early," a netizen wrote under the psuedonym "Na is always in my heart".
"The days I cheered and cried for you will change to days I miss you and wish you well."
According to a survey on Sina about Li's retirement, 57.8 per cent of the respondents chose "wishing her a better future life", while 18.9 per cent said they were shocked by the news.
Li has not played since losing this year in the third round of Wimbledon to the Czech Republic's Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. She lost in the first round at the French Open, a tournament she won in 2011, to Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Rumours of Li's retirement follow persistent reports over the last few months that the two-time Grand Slam champion is about to stand down.
It is reported that Li has had a right-knee injury for years. She has had several surgeries and described in her memoirs the painful procedures she has undergone just to stay on the court.
Despite the good wishes from millions of fans, official sources had yet to address the issue as of Thursday night.
The World Tennis Association told China Daily that its staff has no knowledge of Li's decision. Organizers at the China Open said they have received no information from Li about her withdrawal or retirement.
IMG didn't reply to email inquiries before the news deadline on Thursday.
According to the schedule, Li was set to play in the Wuhan Open in her hometown from Friday and then go to the capital for the China Open.