Time for a Li Na sighting in Wuhan

When the city of Wuhan, China began hosting its big Premier 5 tournament in Sept. 2014, Wuhan native Li Na – the driving force in Chinese tennis – up and retired just a few days before the first edition.

But that doesn’t mean Li isn’t involved in promoting it.

The 35-year-old was out with the local kids this week.

“Wuhan is building a solid foundation for tennis and everyone is working hard to make this a ‘city of tennis’. You have to start with children young to get them excited about tennis,” she said.

Thumbs up from Li Na in Wuhan

The Wuhan Open, a tournament that may well have been born because then-top player Li Na came from that city, still has Li Na.

But the 35-year-old was there only in a public-relations role with the launch of the ticket-sale drive Wednesday.

“I hope this year’s Wuhan Open will be another great success. I hope the players and the fans have fun this year,” Li said in a statement.

Li had son Sapajou last November; daughter Alisa is now two. She remains, three years after retirement, the most bankable athlete in China.