Li Na wins the 2014 Australian Open in January. Photo: Xinhua
Two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na's agent Max Eisenbud on Wednesday denied rumors that the Chinese star would retire during the upcoming Asian season.
"She is not retiring," Eisenbud responded in an e-mail to China Daily on Wednesday morning in regards to the internet buzz that Li would call an end to her professional tennis career later this year.
Eisenbud, vice-president of International Management Group's tennis division, began grooming Li for stardom since IMG signed her in 2009.
Rampant speculations on Li's potential retirement started to spread on Chinese social media on Tuesday after US sportscaster Mary Carillo revealed while commentating for CBS during the US Open that Li is preparing to retire after the China Open in October.
More than 7.3 million Chinese micro blog users had viewed the page containing "Li's unconfirmed retirement rumor" on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro-blogging platform, by Wednesday morning.
Although Eisenbud didn't offer any further comments, it doesn't seem reasonable for Li to hang up her racquet in such an abrupt fashion given her current athletic form and her lucrative endorsement deals.
Winning Asia's first Grand Slam singles championship at the 2011 French Open, Li became one of the sport's global icons and one of the most marketable female athletes. Her second major title, at the Australian Open earlier this year, helped her climb to a career high of world No 2 ranking while bringing her another bunch of sponsorship deals.
On Forbes' highest-paid female athletes 2014 list, Li followed Russian ace Maria Sharapova to be the second-highest paid woman in sports. Li earned $23.6 million, including $5.6 million from prize money, between June 2013 and June 2014. She now has more than 10 sponsors including Nike, Mercedes and Rolex.
Still, Li's absence at the US Open, following a sad departure from Argentinean mentor Carlos Rodriguez, still drew concerns on how long the 32-year-old Wuhan native would stay on court.
Li has fallen to No 3 on the world rankings after missing the US Open series.
Li's next tournament will be the inaugural Wuhan Open, a Women's Tennis Association Premier tournament beginning on Sept 21 in Li's home city Wuhan.