Li Na becomes first Asian-born player to receive Hall of Fame induction

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Li Na has broken new ground at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The 37-year-old former Chinese star on Saturday became the first Asian-born player to be inducted.

She was enshrined along with Mary Pierce of France and Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov during a lengthy on-court ceremony that followed the Hall of Fame Open semifinals and stretched from sunset into nighttime, forcing grounds’ crew members to scramble and bring in smaller spotlights.

Li became the first Asian to win a Grand Slam tournament, capturing the 2011 French Open in a final that was watched by an estimated 116 million people in her country.

“I did not (know) before I came to the court or it would have made me more nervous,” she said during a mid-afternoon news conference.

“I started (at) about 8 years old, but I hated tennis,” she told the crowd that was sitting in near darkness. “Not bad, at least I’m standing here right now.”

She also captured the 2014 Australian Open after being runner-up twice.

Both semifinal matches Saturday went three sets, prompting the late ceremony for the trio of two-time Grand Slam singles champions.

“The goal is only as worth as the effect required to achieve it,” said Pierce, fighting back tears at the start of her 29-minute speech.

The 45-year-old Kafelnikov was described on his plaque as “one of the most dominant Russian Players of his generation.” He captured the 1996 French Open and three years later won the Australian.

“I know now what it is to be a Hall of Famer,” he told the crowd. “I will carry that responsibility for the rest of my life, and hopefully I won’t disappoint you.”

Predominately a baseline player who reached No. 1 in the world in 2002, he won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics and helped Russia win the Davis Cup in 2002.

“It means that I did it because of hard work,” he said. “All my success came because I did work hard.”

Walking into the Hall a day before his induction, Kafelnikov was taken back.

“I was really stunned when I was walking upstairs for the first time to see the museum,” he said. “From the tennis records, to the cups, to medals from the Olympics. I cannot describe how emotional I was.”

Pierce, 44, lived her dream by playing the French Open. She did more than that, winning it in 2000. She also captured the Australian five years earlier.

“It was my dream in tennis to hopefully play the French Open after watching it as a young girl on TV,” she said. “Then to actually win it was my dream come true.”

Pierce said she played her final match against Li at the 2006 U.S. Open.

“Look where we are today,” she said, looking at Li, seated to her right.

Giron cruises in 3rd set, beats Rybakov at Dallas Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 1
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DALLAS – Marcos Giron advanced to the second round of the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory over Alex Rybakov on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Giron, who reached the semifinals of the inaugural event a year ago, responded quickly after failing to close out the second set, winning the first five games of the deciding set.

Rybakov broke his fellow American when Giron was serving for the match in the second set. Then Rybakov won the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.

“I’m really happy with how I was able to reset in the third and just get back to the game plan from the beginning and elevate,” Giron said. “He played well and served well and kind of hung in there.”

Eighth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France won the final five points of a first-set tiebreaker and the last four games of the second to beat American Steve Johnson 7-6 (6), 6-2.

J.J. Wolf, the No. 6 seed, had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Brandon Holt.

John Isner, the fifth seed and unofficial tournament host in his hometown event, played later Tuesday. Like Giron, Isner lost in the semifinals last year.

Sock wins at Dallas Open, set to face top-seeded Fritz

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DALLAS – Wild-card entry Jack Sock opened with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka at the Dallas Open, setting up a second-round meeting with top-seeded fellow American Taylor Fritz.

Sock broke Ivashka’s serve in the final game to win the match. Ivashka fell behind 2-0 to start the final set but broke Sock to get back on serve.

Down a break early in the second set, Ivashka rallied to force the deciding set after Sock cruised in the first-set tiebreaker.

The eighth-ranked Fritz is back for the second Dallas Open after losing in the semifinals as the top seed in the inaugural edition of the indoor hard-court event last year. Defending champion Reilly Opelka isn’t in the field.