French Open winner Li Na was stunned in straight sets on Tuesday by Romanian teenager Simona Halep, 6-2, 7-5. The loss comes one day after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was ousted from the year's final Grand Slam. Kim Clijsters, the reigning Australian Open champion, isn't in the field due to injury.
Not since 1971 have the winners of the three previous Grand Slams failed to collectively win a match at the U.S. Open. In that year, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong had a good reason: Neither of them were in the field. Never before have the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champions been ousted in the first round.
The loss to Halep continues what has been a lost summer for Li. Since winning in Roland Garros she has a 5-6 record, including a second-round exit from Wimbledon.
Armchair shrinks will try to psychoanalyze the slump. Is it the added pressure of being the most famous sportswoman in a nation of 1.3 billion? Is she pressing too hard after signing endorsement deals that will likely make her the highest paid female athlete in the world? Is she mentally and physically fatigued from the grind?
No matter the reason, Li Na's play is unrecognizable from the game that took her to the first two Grand Slam finals of the season. She had 54 unforced errors in 125 points against Halep, some of which sailed feet past the lines. Even when she broke to even the second set, her body language looked like that of a player with little confidence in her tennis.
- Simona Halep
- Petra Kvitova