Li Na: Chinese trailblazer retires at the age of 32

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Chinese tennis star Li Na retires at age of 32 due to injury

Li was Asia's first grand slam singles champion

The 32-year-old Li had win-loss record of 503-188

Li recorded prize money earnings of $16.7 million

CNN  — 

Asia’s first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career due to “chronic” knee injuries.

The current world No. 6 won the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014 as well as helping popularize the sport in Asia.

“It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be,” said Li on her Facebook page.

“Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family.”

Paying tribute to Li’is successful career, WTA chairman and chief executive officer Stacey Allaster highlighted the Chinese star’s help in raising tennis’ profile in Asia.

“She is a pioneer who opened doors to tennis for hundreds of millions of people throughout China and Asia,” said Allaster in a statement.

“It’s hard to be a household name in a nation with 1.4 billion people, but that’s what Li Na is,” added Allaster.

“Her legacy is immense and I have no doubt that her contributions to the WTA will be seen for decades to come in China, throughout Asia and the rest of the world.”

World number one Serena Williams also paid her own tribute. “Your retirement is a sad day for tennis but I’m sure your future will be bright. The star you left on our sport will never dim. Thank you for always making everyone smile,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

As well as her two grand slam triumphs, the 32-year-old Li reached the Australian Open final in 2011 and 2013.

After her 2014 win in Melbourne, she became world No. 2 in February – the highest ranking ever attained by an Asian player.

However, an injury to her right knee forced Li to withdraw from April’s Stuttgart Open, and the 32-year-old has struggled with her form since. It was a knee injury that forced her to miss the recent U.S. Open.

Read: Li Na’s open letter of retirement

“After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding,” Li added on her Facebook page.

“My previous three surgeries were on my right knee. My most recent knee surgery took place this July and was on my left knee.

“While I’ve come back from surgery in the past, this time it felt different. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100%, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again.

“The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100%.”

Li, who played in three Olympics for China and retires having earned $16.7 million in prize money, has no plans to completely sever her links with tennis.

“We’re putting together various plans on how we will continue to grow the sport of tennis in China,” she said. “These plans include opening the Li Na Tennis Academy, which will provide scholarships for the future generation of Chinese tennis stars.

“I will also stay involved in the Right to Play, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children overcome challenges through sport.”

Read: Tennis grand slam lessons we’ve learned in 2014

Read: Serena’s delight at U.S. Open win