NEWPORT: China’s Li Na, a two-time Grand Slam winner who is credited with creating a surge of interest in the sport in her country, headlined the list of eight candidates up for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Two-time Grand Slam singles champion Mary Pierce, Russian former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Wimbledon champions Conchita Martínez of Spain and Goran Ivanišević of Croatia were among the other nominations announced on Wednesday.
Li, who remains the only Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title, won the French Open in 2011 and three years later lifted the Australian Open trophy.
The former world number two won nine career titles and compiled a singles record of 503-188.
“Tennis history in China is still young and it’s been a privilege for me to be part of the sport becoming so popular there,” Li said in a statement.
“I’ve loved to see so many young people get involved, and to see more of a presence from China on the tours. To be considered to be in the Hall of Fame alongside some of the best players in tennis history is a great honour for me and my country.”
Frenchwoman Pierce reached a career high of world number three in singles and won 18 singles and 10 doubles titles.
Kafelnikov, who won gold at the 2000 Olympics, became Russia’s first major singles champion when he triumphed at the 1996 French Open. He also won the doubles title at Roland Garros that year and no man has since won both the singles and doubles titles at the same major.
Martínez won 33 singles titles, none bigger than at Wimbledon in 1994 where she defeated nine-time champion Martina Navratilova in the final.
Ivanišević was known for his serve-and-volley style of play which helped him land the 2001 Wimbledon title.
Ranked 125th before the tournament, the big-serving left-hander enjoyed a magical run in which he knocked out three former or future world number ones on the way to a five-set battle with Australian Pat Rafter in the final.
The Class of 2019 will be announced in January with an induction ceremony scheduled for July 20 at the Newport, Rhode Island-based Hall of Fame.