Li Na Will ‘Get a Hand’ from Carlos Rodriguez – I Cannot Believe I Just Said That

After flopping hard losing to Daniela Hantuchova in the first round at the Olympics, Li Na announced that she would hire Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s long time coach, on a trial basis beginning August 16th for the remainder of the 2012 season. He will also travel full time with her.

This is not Rodriguez’s first foray into coaching since Henin retired. When she retired the first time, he worked with Anna Chakvetadze for a few months before the two part ways. He said she didn’t want to work hard enough. He’s not going to be too happy with Li then.

Li, to her credit, has had no shortage of coaching experiments over the past few seasons. First, Thomas Hogstedt left her to coach Maria Sharapova in early 2011. How did Li respond? She defeated Sharapova, and Hogstedt, in the semifinals of Roland Garros on her way to the title under the tutelage of Michael Mortensen, who she fired in late 2011. Li said she didn’t like his ‘mild and gentle’ approach; she wanted someone tougher.

The, uh, interesting dynamic between Li and her sometimes coach, always husband Jiang Shan never failed to amaze in its hilarity. She called him out for snoring in front of thousands at the Australian Open, and is apparently not very good with money. Observe.

Considering his coaching relationship with Henin was, uh, one of ‘interdependence,’ I fail to see how this can be anything but a very large, very comedic failure. First of all, she’s also not one who likes to be told what to do.

Wonder how she feels about a guy from Argentina then?

Henin never made any career decisions without consulting Rodriguez first. Henin shared an emotional bond with Carlos since he was with her from such a young age, and frankly, it became much like a father-daughter relationship. Having one coach for such an extended period means the player doesn’t necessarily need tactical or technical strategy, but only moral support. Li’s strong-willed, Type A personality will clash with Rodriguez’s style. I for one, cannot wait until she calls him out for his first legal WTA on-court coaching consult.

Flags for ALL the Tennis Players!

Apparently this guy is some important soccer player? Yeah, whatever.

Tennis was a part of the inaugural 1896 Olympic Games in Athens but was dropped after the 1924 Games. After two appearances as a demonstration sport, it returned as a medal event in the 1988 Games. It has been argued that tennis, as a tournament sport, has no place at the Olympics; many have argued whether an Olympic gold holds equal merit to a Grand Slam title. Elena Dementieva never won a Grand Slam, but is widely considered a sporting hero in Russia for bringing home the gold in Beijing. Clearly Mr. Hamann hasn’t heard any of this, or doesn’t understand the definition of pinnacle.

Tim Henman:

 “I have some great memories of that Olympics, such as going to the Opening Ceremony – that was fantastic, walking into the stadium and being around all those other athletes. I loved the opportunity at the Olympics to watch other sports, to see other athletes in action. Winning a medal at the Olympics is very special.” (The Tennis Space)

Roger Federer:

“…The Olympic gold is a dream for me.  I believe I can handle the pressure but the Olympics is a different animal because you only do get an opportunity every four years.” (Reuters)

Venus Williams:

“That’s all I’ve fought for this whole year, so I hope that I can play well there,” Williams said following her loss to Elena Vesnina at Wimbledon. For me it will just be an honor to be there, and try to capitalize on that moment…they’re the time of my life, especially when I got to win. But also being able to get to that point in my career has been amazing for me.”

Victoria Azarenka:

 “I have an…opportunity to represent my country at such an event and it’s just something unexplainable in words.” (Reuters)

The Opening Ceremony for the London Games will take place on July 27th, and tennis players will have a huge presence. I’m not kidding. At present, EIGHT tennis players will be the flag bearer for their nation at the ceremony: Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus), Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Max Mirnyi (Belarus), Rafael Nadal (Spain), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Horia Tecau (Romania) and Stephanie Vogt (Liechtenstein). Number nine Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria) was reportedly confirmed earlier in the week, but the Bulgarian Olympic Committee released a statement that their decision had not yet been made. Lindsay Davenport, commentating for Tennis Channel in Stanford last week, let it slip that Serena Williams is on the short list for the United States, which would bring the total to 10. It was also reported that Federer was asked to be the flag bearer (again) for Switzerland, but is mulling over turning it down to give someone else an opportunity.

It was great for tennis when two or three players were selected for the honor. Are we in overkill territory now? Perhaps. In Beijing, two players carried the flag: Roger Federer (Switzerland) and Fernando Gonzalez (Chile). In Athens, four players enjoyed the honor: Federer, Claudine Schaul (Luxembourg), Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand) and Abdo Abdallah (Djibouti). Now, we all know tennis players are professionals. They travel the world every year for tournaments, and have their big moments at the four Grand Slams. Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Sharapova receive millions of dollars in endorsements from companies around the world. Of course the Olympics are special to them, but for different reasons. On the tours, players are playing for themselves, and rarely have an opportunity to play for their country. On the other hand, there are some tennis players who are living the Olympic dream. Stephanie Vogt, who has received an ITF invitation, will be leading a team of three athletes in the Parade of Nations. Three. Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau are doubles specialists, who are probably not as well known outside of their nations and tennis circles.  This is their moment too.

At the end of the day, the Parade of Nations is a fitting name. Countries put their best on display, and tennis players are probably some of the best known athletes from many of these countries. Yes, the wrestlers, swimmers and rowers toil for years to have their moment in the sun at the Olympics. But do most of you know their names? It’s a harsh question, but one that needs to be examined. It’s an honor for all athletes just to make it there and they all play under the same flag, no matter who is holding it.