Chinese netizens slammed tennis star Li Na, accusing the French Open champion of taking herself too seriously and not working hard enough after she suffered a humiliating defeat on home turf.
Li – who became China’s darling after she made history in Paris in June as the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles title – was defeated 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday in the first round of the China Open.
“She became a champion, and then she was flooded with advertising deals and hundreds of millions in income, so where is the time to train?” one poster said, commenting on a report about Li’s defeat on a popular news portal.
Brands such as automobile firm Mercedes-Benz, luxury watchmaker Rolex and ice cream manufacturer Haagen-Dazs, as well as sports giant Nike, have signed Li to be the face of their goods in China.
“It’s not strange (her defeat) because it’s surprising she won before – and anyway she’s been taking herself really seriously recently,” another online user said.
Li, currently the world number five, lost against unheralded Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu in just under 90 minutes in front of stunned home fans in Beijing.
The 29-year-old has not been able to add to her trophy cabinet following her French Open triumph, crashing out of major tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open.
“I’ve just lost all confidence now,” said the fourth seed. “I don’t know what I can do. Even winning one point is tough for me.
“For me it seems like the end of the season right now. I need a long break – for the body and the mind,” said the player, who is back with her husband as coach after a trial with Dane Michael Mortensen.