China media, netizens laud Li Na after Open win
China's Li Na holds a trophy after her victory during the women's singles final on day 13 of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2014 - by Saeed Khan
The Chinese media has experienced a frosty relationship with Li, due to her outspoken nature and the heavy weight of expectation the feisty 31-year-old carries for her 1.36 billion compatriots.
But news organisations led tributes after the fourth seed was crowned the Melbourne Park champion on her third attempt.
"Congratulations to the Australian Open Champion Li Na," China Central Television (CCTV) said on its official page on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
"Now let us heartily cheer for China's Na!" the state broadcaster added.
Li became Asia's first Grand Slam winner at the French Open in 2011, a victory which is widely credited for helping boost the popularity of tennis in China, where it is the country's third most-watched sport after football and basketball.
Xinhua also praised the achievement of a player who is affectionately known as "big sister" by her adoring fans.
"She is also the first Asian player to clinch the Australian Open," beamed the state-run news agency said on its Weibo microblog.
"Congratulations sister Na!"
The People's Daily newspaper also praised Li in a Weibo post shortly after she battled past underdog Dominika Cibulkova to win the tournament.
"At this moment, let us enjoy the cheers for China's Na," the official Communist Party mouthpiece said.
"We are so proud of you, so proud of you," it continued.
Li developed a reputation as a prickly character in a nation where sports stars typically keep their emotions strictly in check after years in the rigid state sports training system.
But China's only major tennis star has faced rigorous scrutiny from the nation's media, particularly over her mental strength.
Li, who comes from Wuhan in the central Hubei province, has previously spoken of how negative reporting had caused her to consider her future in the game.
Elsewhere on China's hugely popular Internet chatrooms, netizens praised how the star has developed since she arrived as an Asian tennis pioneer at the French Open.
"Two and half years from Paris to Melbourne have seen doubts over her performances, her falling into the trap of public opinion with her outspokenness, and her almost retiring through differences with the media," said one Weibo poster.
"But for the love of tennis and the pursuit of dreams, she is finally at the front... back on the high ground."
Another netizen simply revelled in the moment: "Too intense! Too nervous! Li Na wins the Australian Open...absolutely brilliant!"
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