Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Li poses threat to élite with mental strength and backing of nation

Coaching Report: Chinese player is building a strong body of work, and her aggression made Clijsters fight for quarter-final victory

Here's something I wasn't expecting to write: if Li Na had been facing almost any player other than Kim Clijsters yesterday, I would have given her good odds of winning her quarter-final after she took five successive games in the second set. I wouldn't have given the 24-year-old Chinese any real chance at the start.

But actually she was pretty darn good. And if it wasn't for her Belgian opponent's own desire to reach her second Wimbledon semi-final, and Clijsters' vastly greater experience at the business end of big tournaments, Li might just have found herself in the last four. She's not, but significantly she did look like she is starting to fit in - she did not look totally outclassed at this level. Her confidence will rise because of her satisfaction with her performance throughout the tournament. She's beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova, she's beaten Nicole Vaidisova - and came from a set down to win in three against both - and now she's given one of the best women in the world a run for her money. She's proved she can be a threat.

What she needs to do now is build on it. The foundations look fine: she's strong, has powerful groundstrokes and good movement. Her ethos is important, and representative of the upcoming Chinese players. Totally focused. On a mission. Supported by a country that not only demands success but is sure they will get it, which permeates through the system. You won't find any Chinese player partying, talking about fancy dresses or doing anything other than her job: winning tennis matches.

At a technical level, Li's game is based on good body foundation, strength in her lower body. That allows good set-up, and balance. That means she has timing on contact, and hence greater control over ball placement.

Li's mentality is also important. Clijsters was asked afterwards: "Li's tough?" To which she replied: "I can only agree." The mental toughness was illustrated when Li was a set and 2-0 down, and she won five games in a row. Later she even had a set point, serving at 5-3, and when Clijsters came back at her she saved two match points and remained in contention with some superb shots before going down.

One shot that stood out for me was Clijsters' first match point, the Belgian serving at 6-5. Li bludgeoned a double-handed crosscourt backhand bang into the corner, just in, to stay in it. Eventually her aggressive shots meant she over-hit one too many, but that was also down to Clijsters pressuring her. I expected Clijsters to win through hitting heavy balls and using spin, and that's what she ultimately did to get through.

I expected Maria Sharapova to beat Elena Dementieva, and she did, but what was most positive about Maria is she's starting to look really comfortable for the first time in the tournament. She powered through, and that will be a boost for her mentally.

What's so good about a leftie?

This week I'll answer some of the questions you've been sending to me along with your e-mail applications to win a one-month scholarship at my Florida academy. The prize is for one student (under-18s only), and includes tuition and board. Just tell me: how can I help you, and why? Harriette Withers e-mailed to say: "I'm a left-hander. Everybody tells me I'm so lucky to be a leftie. What advantages do you think it has?"

Two fairly obvious advantages are that lefties are relatively rare, so the majority of players (right-handers) are facing an increased threat of the unknown when they face lefties. And the leftie generally finds some shots easier: slaps, spin and the wide serve come to mind.

But the leftie's big advantage is thinking with the right side of the brain. I think lefties are more creative, they see the court differently. Some seem to perceive the sport in a way the rest can't grasp. Marcelo Rios, a leftie, was the most creatively talented player with whom I've ever worked.

Hewitt facing explosive test

Oh boy! Not only do we have the feast of Roger Federer-Mario Ancic today but the eyes of the tennis world will also be on the combustible match-up between the Aussie gunslinger, Lleyton Hewitt, and the Cypriot firecracker, Marcos Baghdatis.

I'm going to opt out of picking a winner: it can go either way. Do I believe an on-form Hewitt could win? Of course. But so can Baghdatis, who presents the toughest test yet for Lleyton.

Whatever the result, I won't be surprised. Baghdatis has earned his reputation now, by getting this far. Before this run to the quarters, some people might still have argued that his Australian Open final was a fluke. It wasn't. Baghdatis loves hitting, so Hewitt can't rely on a slugging match.

Baghdatis will have a lot of support. He even split the crowd against Andy Murray. He's a crowd pleaser. And when he's on his game, that's reflected in the audacity of his tennis. More clear cut is Rafael Nadal against Jarkko Nieminen, which I take Nadal to win in a maximum of four sets.

Read my views on the game, year round, at

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor