Na Li called her new coach Carlos Rodriguez ‘crazy’ during the off-season, as he put her through her paces in a way like no other that she’d experienced. Even so, Rodriguez is the man who seems to have been hand-picked by Li, who at an advanced stage in her career was searching for a way to get the most out of her last few years at the apex of the game.
After almost a month of the 2013 season, it looks like Li’s selection has been a superb one. Rodriguez, best known up until now for coaching and mentoring legendary Belgian Justine Henin, has sparked a tremendous turnaround in China’s No. 1. His work has gone beyond pushing Li to breaking point during training, as he’s also worked to kerb the 30-year-old’s famous temper.
“I see already a lot of potential,” said Rodriguez last year when he began his work with Li. “The temperament is explosive…there is something that you have to know how to manage,” he said as he gestured to indicate using your head over your heart.
Rodriguez held lengthy discussions with Li’s husband, Jiang Shan, who had coached her from 2006 up until the start of Rodriguez’s arrival. The Li and Shan tennis partnership had been as notable for the on-court tirades as much as Li’s success. The introduction of Rodriguez appears to have calmed down the former French Open champ and has undoubtedly spared Shan from a few ear-bashings.
The results so far are hard to ignore. Li has been one of the streakiest top ten players that we’ve seen in a long time, but she finished the 2012 season strongly and began 2013 in great form. She narrowly missed out on winning the Australian Open and may have fared even better had she not been hit by an ankle injury and a nasty fall in the third set.
Even when things didn’t go her way in the final against Victoria Azarenka, Li smiled through the pain and kept her head. It wasn’t enough to get her over the finish line as the victor, but demonstrated that players might not be able to rely on a Li implosion in the future to let them off the hook.
The Li-Rodriguez partnership has worked wonders so far, so we’ll be keeping an eye on her results ahead of the French Open this year. It’s an event that Li has won before, and it’s not one that you’d necessarily bet against her winning again.
Written by Ian Horne from Livestreamingsport.com, an award-winning sports, news and live stream website.