PARIS (Reuters) - The distractions of being French Open champion led to six wasted months, said 2011 winner Li Na, who has finally found her form again in time to defend her title next week.
“I lost a lot of time (after the title),” the Chinese player, who is seeded seventh in Paris this year, told a news conference after attending the draw ceremony on Friday.
Li, who became the first player from an Asian nation to win a grand-slam tennis tournament when she beat Italian Francesca Schiavone in last year’s final in Paris, failed to win more than two matches in a row for the rest of the season.
”I had to do so many things out of tennis. So after Roland Garros I felt I had lost concentration on the court.
“I was training as hard as before...but it was totally different because my mind was not on the court anymore. I always had to do so many things and it’s something I had never experienced before,” said Li. “I wasted half a year to learn life.”
She has, however, turned around the situation this year, reaching the final in the Rome claycourt tournament earlier this month, losing against Maria Sharapova in three sets.
Li, who will start her French defense against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, has hired a professional agent to help her cope with the attention that last year’s win brought her.
“Last year I was back in China, I was in a restaurant, and suddenly a lady screamed: ‘Oh, she’s eating’,” she said.
“I was like...,” she shrugged. “I have to go to the supermarket to buy something, like everyone else but they think I‘m different.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon