Last month, Li Na declared that her streaky performances this season have occurred because of her gender. "The female players are not as harsh or as tough as male players, they want to take some time to re-adjust themselves after a big victory in a big event," she said. Can you imagine, if someone had said she was losing because she was Chinese? That would have been equally ridiculous, and perhaps even Li would have realized that it would have been equally offensive.
But rather than discuss the internalized sexism of the WTA in general and Li Na in particular, I'll mention that the Chinese star has been a streaky player throughout her career, so nothing has really changed. It's just that--now that she's the French Open champion--her ups and downs (mostly downs lately) are in much tighter focus. Today, Li lost in the first round of the China Open, and worse--she won only four games against a qualifier. Monica Niculescu defeated her 6-4, 6-0.
Li, while in the apparently lengthy process of "re-adjusting" herself, recently signed on with two additional sponsors. She also stopped working with her coach.
Last year, Li reached the semifinals in Beijing, so she loses a lot of points this week. The China Open is not only Li's home tournament; it's also the last big tournament of the season. The off-season probably can't come soon enough for the French Open champion.