Li Na

Week 19 (25 - 31 January 2014)

Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis's image is influenced by the occasion of the post-tournament speeches given by its stars.

Over the years, they have provided some of the sport's most memorable moments such as Andy Murray's humble, tearful words after losing to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final: "I can cry like Roger. It's just a shame I can't play like him."

There was a similarly touching moment in 1993 when a distraught Jana Novotna cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after her loss to Steffi Graf and later described how Her Royal Highness comforted her by saying: "Jana, I believe that you will do it. I know that you will do it, don't worry." In 1998, those words came true for the popular Czech player.

Things were not so pleasant during the 1980s when John McEnroe left the court during Ivan Lendl's victory speech at the 1984 French Open, while four years later Frenchman Henri Leconte was booed by the Paris crowd when explaining how he had lost to Mats Wilander.

Last Saturday, another addition to this eclectic back catalogue was made after China's Li Na won the Australian Open. The 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 scoreline tells the story of a straightforward match in which Li struggled to settle against her Slovakian opponent, Dominika Cibulkova, in the first set but dominated the contest thereafter to win her second Grand Slam title.

Li's speech in victory, however, was anything but regulation. The 31-year-old adopted the normal post Grand Slam-win speech template by thanking her opponent, her team, the fans, her husband and even the sponsors – but her tone and manner made it unique.

Li thanked her husband Jiang ("my hitting partner") for his help to "fix the drinks and fix the racquets" before cheekily adding: "You are a nice guy. Also...you are so lucky you found me."

On her agent she said: "You make me rich, thanks a lot!"

To round things off, Li admitted: "I know you guys think I talk too much but last thing, thanks for the crowd for coming to support us."

Li's speech has been a hit on the Chinese microblogging site, Sina Weibo, while Eurosport's Tramlines column called it the "best winner's speech ever".

Li's light-hearted words may have been a release from the nerves she felt before the match. This was her third appearance in the Australian Open final, and with her opponent only a 20th seed, the world No. 3 was the overwhelming favourite.

The effect of her words is easier to judge. Li has reminded everyone that tennis is a sport where personalities don't have to be locked away in the pursuit of success.

To watch Li Na's victory speech, click here.  

Photo: Shutterstock