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By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) - Li Na’s husband was granted an unexpected breather from his usual duties of “fixing the drinks and fixing the rackets” and “doing a lot of jobs” for his famous wife after the Australian Open champion suffered a shock third round exit at Wimbledon.
Six months after thanking her long-suffering husband Jiang Shan in a hilarious Melbourne Park victory speech, during which she also praised her agent for “making me rich”, Li let down her billion-strong Chinese fan base by bowing out early from the grasscourt major.
Jiang at least will be relieved that his wife did not hold him, or his loud snoring, responsible for Friday’s result.
Instead, she blamed herself for the 7-6(5) 7-6(5) defeat by the Czech Republic’s Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
“I made the wrong decision. I need to play some matches before the big one,” the world No.2 told reporters.
“I always play (the warm-up event in) Eastbourne every year, but (it‘s) always raining and windy. I say, ‘Okay, I cannot practice in that’.”
The gamble of opting out of playing in any grasscourt events over the past fortnight backfired on Friday as Li continued her unhappy association with Wimbledon.
A champion on red clay at Roland Garros in 2011 and on the hard courts of Melbourne in January, grass has proved to be tougher surface for Li to conquer.
Her hopes of improving on three previous quarter-final appearances ended when she whipped a forehand long on match point to become the highest seed so far to fall at this year’s championships.
“It’s not only about technique. I think sometimes I don’t know how to play the point (on grass), especially in the important moment. Today I made a lot of mistakes,” the 32-year-old said.
”I was always waiting (or) wishing for the opponent to make mistakes. But today it didn’t work.
“At least I‘m doing good in hard court. Now I‘m back to hard courts again,” she added with a shrug.
While Li was left to rue her missed chances, Zahlavova Strycova raised her arms in triumph and attributed the win to her “belief, belief, belief” as she finally reached the second week of a grand slam at the 33rd attempt and after more than a decade of trying.
The 28-year-old will play former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki for a place in the quarter-finals. (Editing by Clare Lovell and David Goodman)