French Open champion Li Na has blamed her perplexing slump on her sudden celebrity status ─ and her irritation at being yelled at by her husband.
The Chinese beat Marion Bartoli 2-6 6-2 6-4 on the opening day of the Hopman Cup to arrest a disastrous run of form since becoming the first Asian to win a grand slam in June.
France rebounded to record a 2-1 victory over China thanks to Richard Gasquet’s 6-1 6-3 defeat of out-gunned world No. 424 Wu Di and a commanding 6-1 6-1 win in the mixed doubles.
Despite her team’s defeat, Li insisted her head was out of the clouds for the first time since her ground-breaking French Open triumph.
“After the French Open my life changed,” Li told reporters. “If I go somewhere to play a tournament, more people know who I am.”
Li added: “I’m only focusing on photo shoots. It’s tough after winning a big title, maintaining the concentration ─ so many photo shoots.”
Distracted by off-court commitments triggered by new-found fame and suffocated by public attention in her homeland, Li won only seven of 16 matches for the rest of last season.
“I’ve had a good off-season in Munich,” declared Li, who also reached the 2010 Australian Open final, losing out to Kim Clijsters in three sets. “I’m back.”
Around 120 million TV viewers watched her beat Italian Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final and her tongue-in-cheek jibes about her husband and coach captured the hearts of tennis fans worldwide.
Agitated hubby Jiang Shan chewed his fingernails and shook his head as Li surrendered an error-strewn first set.
Victory finally secured, Li grinned and waved at Jiang before revealing they had been at each other’s throats during practice.
“It’s bad, we’re always fighting,” Li said. “It’s tough, he’s always telling me, ‘Move your feet, move your feet!’ I’m thinking, ‘Why are you shouting at me?’
“I only listen to him for two hours a day now,” joked Li. “I told him, ‘When I am on the court, I will listen to you. When we are away from the court, you have to listen to me’!
“This is the perfect start to a new season and a great way to be getting ready for the Australian Open. My New Year’s resolution is to win another grand slam.”