Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why I Love Li Na

Lots of people -- including me -- say that Americans and Chinese naturally get along. One thing we share is a spark of humor, a quickness for fun. What I love about Li Na is exactly that --  her easy, unguarded sense of humor.

In her post-match interview after her big win over Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals of the French Open today, Li Na was charming about her feelings about clay courts, saying she doesn't like clay, because it's too much work. But after her win today, she likes clay! She 'fessed up that she likes shopping, and that once the tournament is finished, she'll see how much prize money she gets, and then she'll go buy something!  And she assessed her finals opponent, Francesca Schiavone, saying she makes you exercise, so now "I should go practice!"

All honest, self-deprecating, unrehearsed remarks.

I also noticed that Li Na slid almost undetectably over a reference to her husband as "she". Halfway through the syllable "she", Li Na corrected it to "he". This, of course, is the classic challenge for all Chinese, even those most fluent in English: the he/she distinction.  It seemed like Li Na had found a self-help solution to the he/she problem: whenever referring to her husband, use "he". If so, that is a case-by-case solution that doesn't scale. But for Li Na and her new ascent in tennis -- with its promise of many more interviews in English -- it's a solution that makes sense for now.

(image from


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