INTERVIEW-Tennis-Dropping husband as coach was good move - Li Na

ROME Mon May 9, 2011 10:47pm BST

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ROME May 9 (Reuters) - Li Na's recent decision to appoint Denmark Fed Cup captain Michael Mortensen as her new coach was the right move despite the fact it meant ditching her husband Jiang Shan, the world number six said on Monday.

The Australian Open runner-up endeared herself to the Melbourne crowd in January by declaring she would love her husband-cum-coach even if he was "fat and ugly".

Three months later, however, the Chinese player decided to start afresh with Mortensen and the pair made a promising start to their tennis alliance when she reached the semi-finals of last week's Madrid Open.

"I don't care what other people think. My confidence was low and I felt I had to change my coach," Li told Reuters at the Italian Open.

"After Melbourne I didn't do well and if you don't do well you don't have confidence."

Li suffered four straight first-round defeats before making Mortensen her new coach.

"The relationship has been good. We're communicating well and he's told me to trust myself," said the 29-year old.

"I'm not a young player so I know my body and what I can do on the court. We are focusing more on the mental side as I feel I need someone to support me."

Seeded four in Rome, Li will start her campaign against Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino who came through a three-set match against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on Monday.

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"I want to be among the top players at the end of a tournament but I never put pressure on myself," said Li who was beaten by Belgian Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open final.

"Melbourne was good but it was just one tournament. Of course when you do well it's not easy because the fans expect you to reach the final every time.

"But I'm learning to concentrate and set my own goals."

After becoming China's first singles grand slam finalist, Li was expected to become an overnight celebrity at home but she said little had changed in her day-to-day life since her Melbourne exploits.

"There have been lots of new courts built in Beijing but ... tennis is not a big sport in China," she said. "I've hardly been home ... but I did notice I'm recognised a bit more now especially by younger people.

"I get asked to sign autographs but really not that much has changed. I like this life."

Husband Jiang may be thousands of miles away now but the Chinese couple who entertained crowds at the Australian Open will soon be reunited.

"What do I want to do after my tennis career is over?," she asked, breaking into a smile. "Be a housewife and look after my family."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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