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Li’s rise to fame

It was only a few years ago that someone at the Chinese Tennis Federation was quoted as telling the state media, “we will find the girls boyfriends when needed — I think romance is a kind of motivation for them” — which all sounded a bit seedy and icky coming from a governing body.

The issue they had then with Li Na was not finding her a boyfriend, as she already had a husband, but identifying the coach who would best help with what was described, and maybe this reads worse after translation, as her “weak mentality”.

In the end, a decision was reached in Beijing that Li would work with her husband, a former tennis player called Jiang Shan, and mixing their personal and professional lives has worked well for her, as she will make her second successive appearance in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

A year after losing a tight match against Serena Williams, Li will play Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark’s world No. 1, as she attempts to become the first woman from the People’s Republic of China — a country where the party officials used to regard tennis as a decadent sport for the bourgeoisie — to play in the final of a Grand Slam tournament.

No doubt Beijing would have been watching as Li reached the last four in Australia once again by beating Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, an admirer of Che Guevara, and a winner in the previous round over Maria Sharapova.

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