Li Na: Tennis glitterati bid long goodbye to a great

    Story highlights

    • Tennis says its goodbyes to Li Na in a tear-jerking ceremony in Beijing, China
    • Recurring knee injuries had forced the 32-year-old to call time on her career
    • Wozniacki, Kvitova and Jankovic were among those to lead the emotional tributes
    • World' No.2 Rafa Nadal came on court to present her with a bouquet of flowers
    It was the long goodbye as China bid farewell to its sporting heroine in a tearful ceremony.
    Li Na had announced last month at the age of 32 her career was over, that her recurring knee problems would keep her off the court once and for all.
    And at the start of the China Open at Beijing's National Tennis Center Asia's first grand slam singles champion was lauded by peers, Chinese celebrities and the wider public in a special ceremony.
    In all, 40 WTA players were on court for the ceremony, which reached its climax as world No.2 Rafa Nadal, moments after winning on his own return from injury, presented the player with flowers alongside her husband Jiang Shan.
    The 14-time Grand Slam champion had previously tweeted: "Congratulations for your career and I wish you all the best in your new life #LoveLi."
    Li reached a career-best ranking of second earlier this year shortly after her victory at the Australian Open. She had previously become her continent's first grand slam winner at the 2011 French Open, one of nine WTA career singles titles.
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    But having not played since Wimbledon, she decided to retire.
    Now, she plans to start a family and also set up her own tennis academy but admitted: "I was sad because tennis was with me for 24 years".
    Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic and Petra Kvitova were among the players on court to wipe away the tears, Wimbledon champion Kvitova leading the tributes.
    "The most important thing I want to say is thank you for being our opponent, thank you for being our inspiration and thank you for being our friend. We will miss you, champion," said Kvitova.
    WTA chairman Stacey Allaster also paid tribute adding: "You're a true champion and pioneer, who has made such a difference in so many people's lives. You are the player of this decade, who has made the most impact and growth on women's tennis."