The central Chinese city of Wuhan gave 2011 Roland Garros champion Li Na a hero's welcome back to her hometown to kick off the Wuhan Tiandi 2011. The exhibition tournament 'Li Na and Friends', Dec 17-18, will feature 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, former Roland Garros champion Carlos Moya and the 2011 Wimbledon semifinalist and WTA Comeback Player of the Year Sabine Lisicki.
The event will be co-organised by the Wuhan municipal government, IMG, the Wuhan sports bureau and the CCTV-IMG Sports management Co. Ltd.
The event gives fans a chance to celebrate Li Na's historic Grand Slam victory, and draws marquee players of past and present into one of China's burgeoning epicentres of development, Xinhua reported.
In the first match, Li Na will square off against Sabine Lisicki, who - as Chinese fans are certain to begrudgingly recall - defeated Li in the second round of Wimbledon buoyed by tremendous crowd support.
Then two former ATP Tour No.1 will join the women on court, with Li Na pairing with Sampras to take on Lisicki and Moya.
"It's good to be back," said Sampras, referring to his third trip to China in three months. "I'm a friend of Li Na now, which is a great honour for me."
After admiring Sampras on television for so many years, Li Na shared how starstruck she felt when he congratulated her at the China Open in October on her Roland Garros win. "After he was gone, I had to ask myself, 'Did that really just happen?'"
The men will face off in singles Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Though Sampras and Moya both played in the Chengdu Open in October, the two did not meet as they were in separate round-robin groups.
After the men's showdown, the women will return to the court for the reverse mixed doubles, with Li Na and Moya taking on the duo of Sampras and Lisicki.
Yan Fan, deputy director of the Wuhan sports bureau, heralded the opportunities Wuhan Tiandi 2011 'Li Na & Friends' provided to promote tennis at the grassroots in China.