Tennis: Age no barrier as Li hits new heights

Tennis: Age no barrier as Li hits new heights

ISTANBUL - Li Na's fine performance in getting to the final of the season-ending WTA Championships was one in the eye for those who suggested that her best was behind her.

Instead, at the age of 31, Li has not only become the first Asian to reach world number three but her game is evolving cleverly enough to hope for further triumphs in 2014.

Although Li conceded the last nine games in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 loss to Serena Williams on Sunday, there was evidence of new tactical options and growing self-confidence as she overcame Victoria Azarenka, the world number two, and then troubled the world number one in the final.

At first she downplayed her hopes and achievements, as perhaps she needed to, both for modesty's sake and to avoid self-inflicted pressure.

"Number three was the goal at the beginning of the year. I don't know, lucky or happy in the last tournament, I made it," she said.

"So it's a pretty good ending for 2013," Li added, prompting the question whether she would now aim for world number two.

"Why not?" she said, shrugging her shoulders.

More importantly she will keep her focus to day-to-day matters, like adding to her ability to take the ball early and dictate the pattern of the rallies, like improving and mixing in more serve-volleys, and paying close attention to her schedule to avoid injury and exhaustion.

Li is also trying to access potential still contained within her and to release unused abilities.

Her coach Carlos Rodriguez has, she says, been trying to get her to unlock herself, not get so tight inside, and to play more freely.

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