Archive for August, 2013

Li Na was forced to use drug

the Times correction

The Times correction

NY Times magazine’s Li Na, China’s Tennis Rebel has created a quite stir in the Chinese media (北青 is pretty good in terms of finding truth .. Lost in Translation as it turned out) but inaudible in the USA, especially athletes taking drugs is a sensitive subject, like the most recent A Rod’s drug problem.

The author or the Times made the correction. In the original article, the author wrote:
…the head coach insisted she play through, overruling a doctor’s recommendation, by taking steroid pills, to which she was allergic.
The corrected version goes this way:

The note didn’t elaborate on her reasons: the burnout from excessive training, the outrage at her coaches’ attempts to squelch her romance with a male teammate named Jiang Shan, and the debilitating period that the head coach insisted she play through, overruling a doctor’s recommendation, by taking steroid pills, to which she was allergic. which the team leader wanted her to play through by taking hormone medicine

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Was it in? She asked.

Huh, finally someone talked about it:

A glimpse of that future may have come on Wimbledon’s Center Court, during Li’s quarterfinal match against Radwanska. Her net-rushing tactics earned Li four set points in the opener. She served an ace on one of them, but when it was called out, she neglected to challenge, and the set went to the Polish player. Li battled back to win the second set before finally succumbing in the third. When a reporter asked Li if she wanted to know the correct call on the serve that would have won her the set — and perhaps the match — she stared in disbelief.
“Was it in?” she asked.

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李娜“退役真相”没有猛料更像玩笑

网传中国网坛一姐被强制服禁药———

  网传:

  昨天数家新闻门户网站以《李娜专访曝02退役真相:教练强制服禁药 干涉恋情》为题,节选并翻译了上周末《纽约时报》刊发的一篇李娜专访文章。文中称李娜爆料2002年首次退役的真正原因竟然是教练逼迫服用违禁药物类固醇。

  调查:

  1.追溯《纽约时报》原文

  2.李娜自传中取证

  3.中英文两次翻译产生错误

  4.同一英文单词的两种中文解释

  5.李娜接受过采访,目前征战美网无暇过问此事

  出处

  国内网站捅出

  李娜“退役真相”

  8月27日,多家国内新闻门户网站头条位置刊发了《李娜专访曝02退役真相:教练强制服禁药 干涉恋情》。文中称,美网开赛前《纽约时报》以《李娜,中国网球的叛逆者》为题对李娜进行了专题报道,在与记者布鲁克·拉梅尔的对话中,李娜首次谈及2002年退役时的真相,教练强制其服用禁药导致身体透支。此文在网络上被迅速转载,引来广大网友纷纷评论。

  与此同时,北青报记者注意到,在消息的发源地美国,《纽约时报》这篇专访发表几天来,并未引发当地其他媒体的跟风。目前李娜已身在美网,现场的世界媒体也无一提到教练强迫服用禁药的话题。要知道如果真的如网站文章所言,《纽约时报》记者发掘出中国著名运动员曾经被主管教练逼迫服用禁药的消息,将在世界范围引发波澜。如今的平静反而显得不正常。

  溯源

  《纽约时报》编辑

  透露写作过程

  北青报记者决定追溯该文章的源头。经过上网搜索,北青报记者很容易地搜到了《纽约时报》这篇文章英文版的链接。该文最早于8月22日登在《纽约时报》网站上,并于8月25日经过简单更改后,刊登在《纽约时报》的周日版杂志头条位置。这篇文章在网站上的标题是《李娜,中国网球的叛逆者(li Na,China’s tennis Rebel)》;杂志的标题是《一个女人的革命》。文章中《纽约时报》作者布鲁克·拉梅尔对正在备战美网的李娜进行了人物专访。记者也找到了国内网站翻译的有关李娜爆料服药的段落。在英文版文章中写到,教练不顾医嘱,在可能引发过敏症状的前提下,坚持要求李娜服用类固醇药物。国内网站爆料中的违禁药物类固醇在《纽约时报》的文中用词是“steroid pill”,可是这个词是禁药的意思吗?

  记者几经辗转,通过邮件与《纽约时报》负责该版面的编辑克莱尔·古铁雷斯联系上。对方称,她了解这篇文章的写作过程。作者行文时和她聊过李娜拒绝服药的细节。她还告诉记者,李娜自己在自传《独自上场》中也坦白地写过这件事。

  取证

  李娜自传

  索引关键词

  在该报编辑的要求下,记者决定读一下李娜的自传。在《独自上场》第8章,84-85页李娜写到:2002年亚运会之前,由于长久的压力和心情抑郁,我的生理期忽然开始紊乱。医生说是内分泌失调。这个问题很简单的解决方法就是吃有激素的药。但我对这种药过敏。医生告诫我不能参加比赛,但当时的领导表示“你只管给她打针就行了”。从自传看,李娜指的领导让她用药,指的正是这种会过敏的激素药。记者联系《纽约时报》编辑,该编辑也确认,该作者专访的同时也参考引用了李娜的自传。而文中“禁药”一段正是李娜自传的忠实翻译。那激素药怎么就成了爆料中的禁药了呢?

  节点

  “激素类药物”

  误翻成“禁药”

  问到这里,记者已大致梳理出问题的由来。《纽约时报》一文忠实翻译了李娜自传中退役原因的一段,并将激素类药物翻译成steroid pill。新闻网站在翻译时,直接翻译成了类固醇。在中文语境,类固醇确实是禁药的代称。几天前美国飞人泰森·盖伊被查出服用类固醇类禁药。如今这口黑锅扣在了李娜身上。

  解释

  激素药可以吃

  而禁药不能

  记者注意到《纽约时报》英文将激素药称为steroid pill。记者向中国反兴奋剂协会副主任赵健进行询问得知,这一英文的中文意思确实是类固醇,但他表示,类固醇药物是泛指类固醇是广泛分布于生物界的一大类环戊稠全氢化菲衍生物的总称。又称类甾醇、甾族化合物。“连胆固醇都属于类固醇的一种,”赵健介绍,“一般禁药是类固醇里面的睾酮类药物。而类固醇激素,又称甾体激素,具有极重要的医药价值。在维持生命、调节性功能,对机体发展、免疫调节、皮肤疾病治疗及生育控制方面有明确的作用。”

  记者最后询问了赵健主任,如果李娜当时为了治疗,服用了类固醇药物,是否会被认定为服用禁药?赵健称,反兴奋剂规程规定,运动员拥有豁免制度。如果医生开具处方,运动员可以以治疗为目的服用在违禁药物名单上的任何药物。“比如胰岛素,比如治疗哮喘的药物,比如打封闭,都是禁药。如果为了治病,运动员是可以吃的。”赵健说。

  回应

  李娜接受过采访

  目前忙于征战美网

  8月27日 记者与李娜团队的中方经纪人王伟取得联系。对方坦言不知道这个猛料是怎么来的。他介绍,《纽约时报》的记者是直接向李娜的美方经纪人,也就是IMG王牌经纪人麦克斯·埃森巴德提交的采访要求,并于李娜在北京训练期间,对她进行的采访。专访后IMG并未审看稿件。

  据王伟个人分析,这一事件可能是“翻译错误”,但王伟表示,目前李娜仍在紧张征战美网,对于这件事情尚无暇顾及。

  文/ 本报记者 褚鹏

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Milestones

2014.10.29, monkey pose and mermaid pose – high
2014.09.21, camel pose back band
2014.08.26, mermaid pose
2012.11.

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Francesca Schiavone

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2013 US Open day 2

The 17 years old Victoria Duval made our day. When we got to Louis Armstrong stadium, half the crowd was cheering for 2011 champ Sam Stosur. The girl soon lost the first set. As the match progressed more Sam fan became Vicky fan. By the end, the whole stadium was rocking and got behind her. In third set, she closed out the match on her fourth deuce, here is her winning forehand that sealed her victory. Her match point.

Pix on FB: The crowds 1

The little ballerina

The little ballerina

Where have I been? According to Hanna, Tommy boy is very popular with women. I had no idea. But I soon found out Hanna was right. Four Aussie ladies behind me yelled their hearts out for him. More pix of Haas and Monfils on FB

Tommy Haas

Tommy Haas

The Romanian player Ungur has awesome single hand backhand (here the flash player is needed on this link) but he was no match for the goofy Monfils. The gofer had no time to goofy around because the match was over quickly.

Adrian Ungur

Adrian Ungur 8/27

Michael Tirico with Mary Jo Fernandez left the stadium as we were leaving too. Mike is shorter than Mary Jo.
but he was no match for the goofy Monfils. The gofer had no time to goofy around because the match was over quickly.

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Victoria Duval’s winning shot

Third set. Her 4th deuce. Ad in.

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Adrian Ungur vs Monfils

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2013 US Open, day 1

Serena defeat F. Schiavone 0 and 1, but her outfit is, could use big improvement.
Mandy Minella ALMOST pulled off the BIG upset of Sloane Stevens at the Stadium, that’s some match.
Federer’s match was rescheduled to tomorrow due to rain.

Mandy ALMOST pulled off the BIG upset of Sloane Stevens at the Stadium

Mandy Minella ALMOST pulled off the BIG upset of Sloane Stevens at the Stadium

Louis Armstrong Stadium --- Richard Gasquet's backhand is nice

Louis Armstrong Stadium — Richard Gasquet’s backhand is nice

Court 13 --- Eugenie Bouchard

Court 13 — Eugenie Bouchard

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Li Na, China’s Tennis Rebel

li na on ny timesBy BROOK LARMER, The US Open Issue

The patch of Wimbledon grass known as the Graveyard of Champions was supposedly exorcised four years ago, when the blue-blazered gentlemen of the All England Lawn Tennis Club demolished Court 2, built a new grandstand in its place and, in 2011, renamed the haunted space Court 3. But the tennis fans watching the 2013 championships still knew. Li Na, China’s tennis rebel, knew, too. This was the same cursed court where top seeds like Pete Sampras and Serena Williams had suffered ignominious defeats, falling to unheralded players in the early rounds. Now Li, the former French Open champion and sixth-ranked player in the world, teetered one game away from a third-round loss to the Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova. “At that moment,” she told me later, “I suddenly saw myself with my bags going to the airport. It made my heart ache.”

For two hours, Li had struggled against her hard-hitting opponent. Trailing 5-6 in the third set, she walked to the baseline knowing that she had to break serve just to stay alive. Lose the next four points, and she might carry out her pretournament threat to quit the sport she had been forced to start playing nearly a quarter-century ago. Her spring season had been a bruising free fall from the heights of her second Australian Open final in January to her second-round flameout at the French Open in May. Now the graveyard was calling.

As Li crouched at the baseline, the cluster of Chinese fans waving little red flags went still. On the first serve, Li blasted a winner down the line. Five points later, she pounced on her first break-point opportunity, scorching a forehand winner — and letting out a scream — to even the set at 6-all. Two more games, another roar: Li had survived. It was just a third-round match, and she had played erratically. But after her recent run of defeats — marked by what appeared to be a lack of conviction at decisive moments — pulling out this victory felt redemptive. “I fought like mad,” she said with a grin. “Winning this match felt as good as getting to a Grand Slam final.”

One more obstacle awaited Li that afternoon. Walking into the press room in her sleek white sweatsuit, she looked warily at the assembled Chinese reporters. Her smile was pinched. China’s state-run media, which happily extols her victories for bringing glory to the motherland, had recently intensified its attacks on her streak of individualism, which has grown only stronger since she left the Chinese sports system in 2008. The furor began after her collapse at the French Open a month earlier, when a reporter for the government’s Xinhua news agency asked her to explain her disappointing result to her nation’s fans. “I lost a match and that’s it,” Li snapped. “Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them?” Her comment ignited a round of official criticism, rebuking her lack of patriotism and manners. Now, the very same reporter raised his hand to ask Li, once again, to address her fans. She glared at him for almost a full minute before mumbling, “I say, ‘Thank you, fans.’ ”

Li Na might prefer that we forget about China and judge her by her character and accomplishments alone. Hers, after all, is the tale of a conflicted working-class girl — the daughter of an athlete whose own dreams were thwarted by political strife — who rose to become one of the finest, richest and most influential players of her generation. All in a sport that most of her compatriots had never watched before.

A mercurial star who blends speed and power — and occasional meltdowns — Li became Asia’s first and only Grand Slam singles champion when she won the French Open in 2011. She is also the first Chinese-born player to crack the world’s Top Five — an elite group she rejoined last month after her run at Wimbledon. With nearly $40 million in sponsorship deals signed in the past three years, she is now the third-highest-compensated female athlete in any sport, trailing only Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

Still, it is impossible to separate Li from China. She is one of the country’s biggest celebrities, with more than 21 million followers on the Twitter-like Weibo (by comparison, LeBron James has 9.4 million Twitter followers). A record 116 million Chinese viewers watched her triumph in the French Open, a bigger audience than the Super Bowl attracted that year. The tens of millions of dollars in endorsements that Li has collected depend on her connection to the Chinese market. Had she been born in Chile, Chad or even Chicago, she would not be one of the top three earners. Nor would the Women’s Tennis Association be unveiling a new pro tournament next year in her home city of Wuhan, in central China. Five years ago, the W.T.A. staged two tournaments in the country; in 2014, there will be eight. The W.T.A.’s chief executive, Stacey Allaster, credits Li with helping spark a tennis explosion in Asia. “If the Williams sisters had the greatest impact on the first decade of this century,” Allaster says, “then I would say, without a doubt, that Li Na will be the most important player of this decade.”

But even now, Li’s game is plagued by a maddening unpredictability — not unlike the W.T.A. in general, where a decade of relative instability at the top has led to a few players reaching No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam. (Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, was only the latest example.) This situation has prompted unfavorable, often unfair, comparisons with the men’s tour, which has been defined over the past decade by scintillating battles among four of history’s greatest players (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and now Andy Murray).

On the women’s side, the only truly dominating player this decade has been Serena Williams. Her return to the sport full time last year after being sidelined by injuries has re-established a more natural order in women’s tennis, with two Grand Slam winners, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, serving as her worthy, if not yet equal, adversaries. But Wimbledon blew that order into disarray — none of the four semifinalists had ever won a Grand Slam — and showed how erratic the women’s game can still be.

As the U.S. Open begins this week, Li senses an opportunity. At 31 years old, she still possesses great foot speed and thunderous ground-strokes, including what many consider to be the most cleanly struck backhand in the game. In the past, Li has tended to fade in the later majors from a lack of fitness and focus. (At the U.S. Open, she’s gotten to the quarterfinals only once, in 2009.) But this summer, after watching her at Wimbledon, I followed Li back to Beijing to witness up close her demanding midseason training regimen with her coach, Carlos Rodriguez. Li is making a big push to make the world’s Top 3 and to win another Grand Slam. “Anybody could win the U.S. Open this year,” Li said. “Why not me?”

Born in 1982, Li Na was, like many Chinese athletes, pushed into sports against her will. Her father — a former badminton player whose career had been cut short by the chaos of the Cultural Revolution — was the “sunshine of my childhood,” she said. Even so, he gave his daughter no choice when he enrolled her at age 5 in a local state-run sports school. Though she was a strong athlete, her shoulders were deemed too broad and her wrists not supple enough to excel at badminton. A coach persuaded her parents that she would have a better chance in a sport that few Chinese at that time had ever seen. “They all agreed that I should play tennis,” she said, “but nobody bothered to ask me.”

From the beginning, Li chafed at the harsh strictures of the state-run sports machine. China’s juguo tizhi — or “whole-nation sports system” — churns out champions by pushing young athletes to their limits every day for years on end. The first time Li defied her coach came at age 11, when, on the verge of collapse, she refused to continue training. Her punishment was to stand motionless in one spot during practices until she repented. Only after three days of standing did Li apologize. She continued training for her father’s sake — “His love was my source of strength,” she said — even though her coach never uttered a word of praise in their nine years together.

When she was 14, her father died of a rare cardiovascular disease. She was playing in a tournament in southern China at the time, and her coach didn’t tell her for several days, waiting until the competition was over. “It is my deepest pain that I did not make it to say goodbye to him,” Li wrote in her autobiography. Her mother sank into debt, and Li remembers being driven to win in tournaments so that she could earn small bonuses to fend off creditors.

Despite the turmoil, Li’s tennis flourished. Her first national junior title came just months after her father’s death. The following year, she was invited to a 10-month Nike-sponsored training program in Texas. After her return, she told an interviewer that she aimed to make the Top 10 in the world, and by early 2002, her goal actually seemed attainable: the 20-year-old was ranked No. 1 in China and had even climbed, at one point, into the world’s top 135. And then she disappeared.

Without telling any of her coaches, Li slipped out of the national training center one morning later that year. To avoid suspicion, Li said, she carried only a small bag of necessities. On the desk in her dorm room was a letter she had written to tennis authorities requesting an early retirement. The note didn’t elaborate on her reasons: the burnout from excessive training, the outrage at her coaches’ attempts to squelch her romance with a male teammate named Jiang Shan, and the debilitating period which the team leader wanted her to play through by taking hormone medicine.

Within hours, Li was in Wuhan with Jiang, planning their new life as university students. “As soon as I got home, I turned off my mobile and refused to take any phone calls,” Li later wrote. “Freedom was delicious.”

Tennis is infamous for tumultuous relationships, usually between parent and child star, coach and protégé. Li is now married to Jiang, a former Davis Cup player. Jiang became her first and only boyfriend at age 16. Romances between teammates were technically forbidden, but Jiang was Li’s refuge — first from the system, then from the vicissitudes of success and failure.

Over the years, Jiang has often served as Li’s coach — only to be demoted to the roles of sparring partner, cheerleader and punch line. In post-match interviews, Li likes to joke about Jiang’s snoring, his weight fluctuations, his control of the family credit card. The couple have been together so long — almost exactly half of Li’s life — that Rodriguez said, “They are not two people, but one person, fused together.” That doesn’t stop them from bickering in public. During an early-round match at Wimbledon, when Jiang exhorted her after a missed shot, she retorted in Mandarin, “You’re not my coach!”

Just hours before her fourth-round Wimbledon match with the 11th-seeded Roberta Vinci, Li seemed annoyed with her husband again. They were warming up on one of the practice courts. As Jiang hit an amped-up version of Vinci’s skidding slice backhand, Li looked out of sorts, netting backhands, lifting forehands long. At one point, Jiang whipped a shot past her and Li responded by angrily crushing a winner. “Sometimes,” she said later, arching an eyebrow, “I think my husband’s purpose is simply to make me unhappy.”

Once the match began, though, Li couldn’t miss. She handled Vinci’s slice with ease and breezed into the quarterfinals. “I felt so good I could’ve run for another three hours,” she said. Li had matched her deepest Wimbledon run, and with Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka gone, the highest seed left, at No. 4, was Li’s next opponent, Agnieszka Radwanska, whom she had beaten handily at the Australian Open in January.

The vibe in Li’s camp was so positive that nobody anticipated the attack on her that same day in People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. “When star athletes’ personalities have become insufferable by the standard of social customs and traditions” the editorial read, “who is to rein in their unchecked insolence?”

Despite China’s desire to have Li embody the country’s ambitions, she has made it clear that she plays for herself as much, if not more, than for her homeland. “When people say that I represent the nation,” she told me later, “that is too big a hat for me to wear.” Li’s independent streak is part of what makes her resonate deeply with China’s younger generation, who have nicknamed her Big Sister Na. But for the country’s leaders (be they national, athletic or media), this is a fundamental challenge to the way the Chinese Communist Party has rallied its subjects for 64 years.

Li said she didn’t see the People’s Daily editorial. Rodriguez forbids her, as best he can, from reading media coverage during tournaments, and Jiang acts as sentry to shield her from articles that might affect her mood. Still, when the coverage stings, Jiang tries to soothe her. “We Chinese have a saying: ‘For any hero, half will compliment, half will slander,’ ” he said. “I tell her to forget the attacks, the pressure, the expectations. But it’s hard to forget. We’re only human.”

Li tried to be lighthearted when I asked her about the Chinese press: “In the past, I used to be really bothered by [bad stories]. Now I just think that perhaps [the Chinese media] think that I’m not famous enough, so they want to help me out.” Her laugh sounded hollow.

Li has become a lightning rod in China, provoking a conversation about the role of freedom — and patriotism — in sports and society. When the editorial came out, her fans angrily defended her right to be herself in an online debate that consumed Chinese microblogs. “At the beginning, I would be affected by everybody’s expectations, but I came to realize that people were just projecting their own dreams onto me,” she said. “I’m not a saint. I, too, am an ordinary person. I have my ups and downs. So all I can do is focus on doing my job well.” She added: “I really, truly think that I am just an athlete. I can represent nothing but myself.”

More than a year into what Li calls her “first retirement,” in 2003, the new head of China’s state tennis program, a former volleyball star named Sun Jinfang, visited her in Wuhan. As Li remembered the meeting, Sun said: “I have heard from many people that there was a Li Na who played very well, but she suddenly quit. So I decided to come see for myself.” At 22, Li was reveling in the joys of ordinary life for the first time: taking university classes in journalism, freely pursuing her relationship with Jiang, even playing a stint of intramural tennis with classmates who had no idea who she was.

“Why don’t you play for yourself?” Sun asked her. The questions surprised Li. No other official had ever spoken to her this way. But it wasn’t clear what “playing for yourself” meant in a system that managed every aspect of players’ lives — from dictating the coaching, training and tournament schedule to taking 65 percent of players’ earnings. Even so, in early 2004, Li put her academic plans on hold (she would eventually graduate five years later) and headed back to the court, unencumbered by a W.T.A. ranking or outsize expectations.

That year, she became the first Chinese player to claim a W.T.A. title by winning a tournament in Guangzhou as a qualifier. By 2006, she had climbed into the Top 25 in the world, but to break into the Top 10, Li believed she needed the freedom to manage her own career, something only a few Chinese athletes, such as the former N.B.A. star Yao Ming, had ever been offered. That freedom wouldn’t be granted before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the pride-fest in which the supremacy of the Chinese sports system — its 51 gold medals topped the Americans’ 36 — was meant to mirror the rise of the nation.

With a Chinese flag affixed to her red Nike outfit, Li made an unexpected run to the semifinals, seemingly untroubled by the knee surgery she had undergone just months before. The local fans cheered her so wildly — even in the middle of points — that at one stage she yelled, “Shut up!” Li regretted the outburst, but reflected later: “Chinese people needed a victory so badly to prove ourselves. I used to think tennis was simply a sport, but the craziness of that match made me realize that it was endowed with meanings that are far more significant.”

Once the Games ended, Li said she issued Sun an ultimatum: “I told her, ‘If I have no freedom, I’m going to quit.’ ” Another young player, Peng Shuai, had been making similar demands. Whether to avert the desertion of her top stars or to help them realize their potential (as it was later presented), Sun soon introduced a policy called danfei, or “fly solo.” Under the new rules, Li, Peng and two others would still have obligations to the national and provincial teams, but they would be allowed to hire their own coaches, set their own schedules and keep a far greater percentage of their earnings. Instead of giving 65 percent of her income back to the federation and her provincial team, Li now pays between 8 and 12 percent, even as she bears the cost of travel, training and coaching. For China — and for Li’s career — this was a radical change.

Flying solo was scary at first. “Jiang Shan and I made plans for the worst-case scenario, where our savings would be reduced to zero,” Li said. She’d never had to deal with the minutiae of finances or logistics before, since the state had done everything for her. But the benefits soon became indisputable. In 2010, with Jiang as her coach, Li reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and broke into the world’s Top 10 for the first time — just as she had vowed so improbably a decade before. A year later, she swept all the way to the Australian final, charming fans with her verbal volleys as well as her groundstrokes. Asked to describe what motivated her back-from-the-dead semifinal victory over top-seeded Wozniacki, she said: “Prize money.”

The date that changed everything for Li — and for the global landscape of tennis — was June 4, 2011. There were no memorials in China that day for the protesting students who were massacred around Tiananmen Square exactly 22 years earlier. But 116 million Chinese fans — nearly double the population of France — gathered around their television sets to watch Li defeat the defending champion, Francesca Schiavone, for the French Open title. “Li Na, we love you!” read the banner on the screen of national broadcaster CCTV, while a presenter raved: “A miracle, a breakthrough, a first in more than 100 years of tennis!” The Chinese Web site Sohu Sports calculated that the victory would net Li 234 times the annual earnings of an average Chinese worker. “But she absolutely deserves it!”

Stunned by the size of the Chinese audience, the W.T.A. ramped up its plans for expanding its presence in Asia while top brands rushed to sign endorsement deals with Li. With Rolex and Nike already signed up, her agent, IMG’s Max Eisenbud (who also represents Sharapova), struck multiyear deals with Mercedes-Benz, Samsung and Häagen-Dazs, among others, pushing Li’s total annual earnings to more than $18 million.

But fame and fortune seemed to disorient Li. She lost early in nearly every other event that year, and failed to make the quarterfinals in six consecutive majors. Last summer, at her request, Eisenbud put together a list of coaches from which she could choose. One of them was Carlos Rodriguez, an Argentine who had guided Justine Henin her entire career, including 117 weeks as world No. 1, and had recently opened a tennis academy in Beijing. “I told Max immediately, ‘Him, him!’ ” Li recalled. “I thought if he could make Justine a champion. …” She made the Montreal finals the first week they worked together in August 2012, and then won the Masters in Cincinnati the following week, her first tournament victory in 15 months.

On a muggy afternoon this past July, Li Na’s quads were burning. It wasn’t the heat, exactly, though the temperature at her training base in Beijing hovered around 94 degrees. Nor was it the torturous workout she’d endured so far: half an hour of running, jumping and agility drills; an hour of rapid-fire core and upper-body training in the gym; then two 90-minute sessions on court, honing her fitness and footwork — and an attacking game she is sharpening for the U.S. Open.

The burning sensation came from the deep sand Li was churning underfoot — part of a beach-volleyball court that Rodriguez has turned into a terrain of pain at his sprawling tennis academy called Potter’s Wheel. For 45 minutes, Rodriguez pushed her through a series of lunging exercises in the sand pit, giving her only 30 seconds of rest in between (not coincidentally, almost the same amount of time a tennis player is allowed between points). The day before, during a timed cycling session, Li had screamed, “I’m on the verge of dying!” Today, after a set of lunging volleys in the sand pit, she bent over her aching legs, her entire body soaked in sweat, and exclaimed, “Now I think I’m actually dying.”

At 5 feet 8 inches tall and 143 pounds, Li has an almost perfect body for tennis: agile feet, piston-like legs and a sculptured core and upper torso. “I’m as fast and strong as I’ve ever been,” Li said earlier that day, as she hunched over a full plate of rice, eggplant, pork and tofu at the academy’s cafeteria. “It just takes me longer to recover than when I was younger.” As Li finished off her food, Jiang dumped several spoonfuls of a high-energy protein powder into a bottle of water and shook it vigorously. “It tastes terrible, but I have to drink it every day,” she said, grimacing as she forced it down.

The dozens of young tennis players eating at the tables around us were under strict orders not to bother Li. But a trio of boys, 12 or 13 years old, kept sauntering by, stealing glances at the small stud earrings that ringed Li’s upper lobe and her tanned forearms, glaring white strips marking where her wristbands normally were. (The rose tattoo on Li’s chest, which caused such a controversy in China when she got it at age 19 that she covered it up during televised matches, was hidden under her T-shirt today.) After she cleared her tray, separating plates and utensils just like all the other players, one of the boys sidled up to her. Li smiled and posed for a photo, but there was little small talk. She only wanted to get to her dorm room upstairs for a quick nap before another grueling afternoon with her coach.

Rodriguez is the ultimate guru, with an intellectual approach to the physical and psychological aspects of the game. Despite his gentle demeanor, his training regimen is so relentless that when Li began in earnest last winter, she told Jiang: “How did Justine continue with Carlos for 15 years? I was ready to die after just three days.” Returning midseason to this kind of training, Rodriguez believes, will help Li avoid a late-season slide.”Li Na has the resources for two more years at the top,” Rodriguez said. “The only question mark will be her motivation at the end of the season.”

For now, at least, Li seems invigorated to be adding new dimensions to her game. At one point during practice, Rodriguez had Li stand on one leg on a wobbly pedestal near the net, cracking volleys without losing her balance. Coming to the net behind forceful approaches, Rodriguez says, will help her end points more quickly (key for a veteran) and add an element of surprise. “I was reluctant at first,” Li said. “But if I don’t try it now, perhaps I’d regret it when I retire. As Carlos told me, ‘Without trying, you’ll never know how good you can be.’ ”

A glimpse of that future may have come on Wimbledon’s Center Court, during Li’s quarterfinal match against Radwanska. Her net-rushing tactics earned Li four set points in the opener. She served an ace on one of them, but when it was called out, she neglected to challenge, and the set went to the Polish player. Li battled back to win the second set before finally succumbing in the third. When a reporter asked Li if she wanted to know the correct call on the serve that would have won her the set — and perhaps the match — she stared in disbelief.  “Was it in?” she asked.

Still, Li had a right to seem upbeat afterward. This was the first time since 2010 that she had reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon — fulfilling a goal that Rodriguez had set for her — and the lifelong baseliner charged the net an astonishing 71 times in the quarterfinal match, winning 48 of those points. “Many people maybe thought I was mad, coming up to the net again and again,” she said. “But I’m glad I was brave enough to try something new.”

Sinking into her white Mercedes coupe after a day of training, Li Na craved one thing above all: a massage. The manicure, the shopping, the spicy Sichuan meal: all those little luxuries would have to wait while her aching body got pounded and kneaded back into some semblance of normalcy. “When I was growing up, I never got a massage, never needed one,” Li said, as Jiang maneuvered into Beijing’s snarled late-afternoon traffic. “But now, anything less than a 90-minute massage and I won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”

From the car, Li rang up the spa at their five-star hotel and was told that the early-evening slots were all booked. It would have been easy for Li to mention her name, but she enjoys a little anonymity, especially in China. Their suite was registered under a pseudonym, so she left the spa their room number. “Yesterday, the receptionist said, ‘You know, you look a bit like that tennis player.’ Later, when she found out, she said: ‘No way! But you’re so skinny in person!’ ” Li threw her head back and laughed.

The question of retirement looms over Li. Among the world’s Top 30, only Serena Williams is older — by five months. Relaxing on a rumpled single bed in her dorm room at Rodriguez’s academy, Li laughed when the subject of age came up. “I didn’t like tennis for the first 15 years I played,” she said, as Jiang, carrying an armful of dirty clothes, asked if there was any more laundry for him to do. “But now, when I’m finally at a stage where I’m enjoying my tennis life, everybody keeps asking me when I’m going to leave.”

Age may be a subject Li avoids, but she makes no secret about wanting children — and becoming “a housewife trailing after my husband.” The couple recently began renovating their three-story villa in Wuhan, where her mother and his parents still live. While Li trained in Beijing, Jiang flew down to shop for curtains and light fixtures, e-mailing her photos for approval. (When Li objected to the $10,000 price tag on one designer fixture, Jiang replied that it was the cheapest one he’d been shown.) If motherhood comes, Li is adamant that her offspring would not pursue a tennis career. “It’s too painful,” she said.

In the state-run Chinese system, Li “never heard a single positive word in a decade or more,” Rodriguez told me, noting that she can still turn that negativity, at low moments, into a corrosive form of self-loathing. Henin was once psychologically fragile, too, he said. But he worked with her from age 13; Li, at 31, has a fully formed character shaped, in large part, by the Chinese sports system and her reaction to it. “When I ask how she’s doing, she almost never mentions anything good. I have to force her to tell me also what she is doing right.”

Rodriguez’s probing into Li’s feelings has provoked greater discomfort than his demanding workouts. In all her years in China, no coach ever asked Li about them. But Rodriguez pushes her to express herself so that her innermost thoughts — and the experiences that shaped them — can be dealt with. “All of her sad memories and experiences are imprinted on her,” Rodriguez said. “They can never be erased, but she has to acknowledge that they have also helped forge her into the person and player she is.” The process, Li told me, “felt like spreading salt over a wound at first. It has been hard and painful, but once I spill things out, Carlos can help me find ways to get over it. He’s made me much stronger mentally.”

Just days before Wimbledon began, Li vowed to quit in anger when she lost early — her tailspin continuing — at a warm-up tournament in Eastbourne. To her surprise, Rodriguez agreed. “Everybody always says, ‘No, no, Li Na, don’t quit,’ ” he recalled. “I told her: ‘Fine, you can quit. Stop playing if that’s what you feel. But if you’re quitting because you didn’t like what happened today, have some courage. This is just a game, but you can’t continue to run away from your problems. They’ll follow you until the end of your life.’ ” Shaken by his words, Li agreed to train hard for Wimbledon. “At Wimbledon, we started to see a different person emerge — more relaxed, more positive,” Rodriguez said. “Now I think she’s hungry for more.”

By the time her three weeks of training ended in late July, Li seemed primed, physically and mentally, for the hard-court season leading up to this week’s U.S. Open. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and that unpredictability is part of what makes Li so intriguing. She still aims to win another Grand Slam, and she’s doing everything she can in the time she has left on court to make that happen. But under Rodriguez’s guidance, she now seems motivated less by pride and prize money than by the desire to leave the game on her own terms, with no regrets. “I know I can’t win every match,” she said. “But as long as I’ve gone through this difficulty, this process, all I need to do is try my best. Then I can be happy, whether I win or lose.”

Brook Larmer last wrote for the magazine about young Chinese golfers. He is the author of “Operation Yao Ming.”

Editor: Claire Gutierrez

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 26, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified the city in Canada where the 2012 Rogers Cup tournament was held. The cup, which alternates locations, was played in Montreal that year, not in Toronto.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 28, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified the medication that Li Na felt pressured to take in 2002. It was hormone medicine used to play through a debilitating period, not steroid pills. And the article misidentified the person who pressured her to take the medicine. It was her team leader, not her head coach.

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