Li Na in action at the Australian Open this year. (Photo/Xinhua)
Li Na failed in her bid to win a second Grand Slam title on Saturday, losing the Australian Open final to reigning champion Victoria Azarenka despite taking the first set and sustaining injuries to her ankle and head. But her performance in reaching the final dismissed earlier worries among her sponsors, reports Shanghai's First Financial Daily.
Jan. 27 was the seventh anniversary for Li and husband Jiang Shan and the 30-year-old has shown that she still has what it takes to play at the highest levels despite failing to win the Australian Open as an early anniversary gift. "I believe in the next one to two years, Li Na's commercial value still has room for growth," the daily cited an executive from a mid-range sports brand as saying.
An insider who has arranged commercial endorsements for Li said that in addition to her sponsor's logo, the player can only show ads in two places, according to the Women's Tennis Association rules. During the Australian Open, Li wore an ad for Taikang Life on her left arm, and ad for Mercedes-Benz on her right.
Li's microblog followers exceed 15 million — about two-thirds of Australia's population, the paper noted.
In 2011, Li lost to Belgium's Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open final but went on to win the French Open, becoming the first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title.
After her first Grand Slam win, Li encountered a downturn in her career and last year went out in the first round at the London Olympics. "After I got the title, I became too lenient on myself," Li says in her autobiography. "I lost my hunger to win."
"Such a downturn is a challenge to patience and confidence, especially for sponsors," one unnamed insider said, noting how one sponsor in June last year was hesitant as to whether to renew Li's endorsement contract.
Li won a contract with Rolex after reaching the 2011 Australian Open final. She currently has 13 sponsors in total, also including Nike, Crown Limited, SpiderTech and Babolat, among others, the report said.
Li placed 87th with a yearly income of US$18 million on Forbes 2012 global 100 celebrity roster, the report said.