Li Na Under Pressure

I rarely go to watch movies in Shanghai. Based on previous experiences, I always seem to end up with someone talking on his or her mobile phone at the top of their voice for 20 minutes, or (the last time I went) just two girls who seemed to have gone to the movies not to watch a film but to catch up on some gossip, talking the ENTIRE 90 minutes.

There’s a certain etiquette to follow when going to watch movies or a play or even a sporting event, but many Chinese do not yet seem to have grasped this.

So it was amusing to see Chinese tennis player Li Na completely lose it with the Chinese supporters at the final of the Australian open in Melbourne.

It’s perfectly normal (and dare I say, required) that fans shout out words of encouragement to their player in between points, but unfortunately it seems some of the over-zealous Chinese fans were shouting out during the rallies, which of course can be a distraction.

So in the video clip you can hear Li Na asking the umpire to “tell the Chinese, don’t teach me how to play tennis”.

The match was quite a decent one – the first Chinese ever to make it to a singles grand slam final. I was expecting her to fall flat on her face but Li Na did pretty well, putting up a good fight right up until the middle of the second set.

The other thing which was irritating was the Chinese commentary. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being supportive of the Chinese players as English commentators are when an English player is playing. So there’s nothing wrong with describing a cross court winner as “gorgeous” for example.  But to describe an unforced error by the opposing player as “piaoliang” (beautiful) is not only inaccurate, but highly ungracious and inappropriate.

And finally, it would be ungracious of me to not congratulate Kim Clijsters on a terrific performance to become Australian Open champion for 2011. Belgium may have a smaller population than Shanghai, but they certainly produce more than their fair share of world class tennis players!

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24 Responses to Li Na Under Pressure

  1. CP says:

    I thought Li Na came across pretty well. She could have won it, but I think the nerves started showing later in the match, and Clijster’s experience of such situations helped. And she was very gracious in defeat (I recall a China v China Olympic badminton final where the loser threw a major strop).

    The Chinese supporters have to improve though. I’ve seen too much of the “China-must-win-even-though-I-know-stuff-all-about-the-sport-I’m-watching” mentality myself.

    I also saw a comment saying that there wasn’t a single grunt in the entire final!

  2. WoAi says:

    @CP – I’m all for less grunting. Monica Seles was the worst offender. And yes, Li Na did well for a first slam final. I can’t blame her for her outburst, although I do think the distractions were not the reason she lost. As you say, Clijsters’ experience must count for something and I know from being an accomplished tennis player myself, when you play badly, everything is a distraction.

  3. MS says:

    Just stumbled across your post … Couldn’t agree more with your comments on the commentary. I was absolutely appalled by the one-sidedness, the inappropriate comments (such as the “piaoliang unforced error” that you pointed out), and the constant ‘ooing’ and ‘ahhing’ _during_ the point with tone clearly determined by how the Chinese competitor was performing.

    Had I been watching this match anywhere other than in Shanghai, I likely would have been strongly hoping for a Li Na victory. However, this commentary turned me strongly the other way as I did not want to witness whatever weird and inappropriate love-fest would have resulted had Li Na won.

    Hopefully in a few years the likes of Li Na herself will be doing the commentary, providing real insight into the play, primarily _between_ points as we are used to in the rest of the world (and educating Chinese fans in the process). The current commentators are just as inappropriate as the Chinese supporters.

    I’m just glad I have not yet had to watch an Olympics on local Chinese tv …

  4. WoAi says:

    @MS – You make a very, very good point. Li Na is one of the first world class Chinese tennis players. It’s not like say, the US who have people like John McEnroe and Tracy Austin to help out with commentary. So I am guessing the Chinese commentators really do not know a whole lot about the game and all they can do is shriek “beautiful shot” every now and then. This will change over time.

  5. Dingle says:

    did you see her interview after the semi-final match? hilarious!

  6. WoAi says:

    @Dingle – No, what did she say?

  7. Dingle says:

    you’ll need your VPN!

    My favourite bit
    interviewer: “what inspired you to go ahead and win in the final set”
    Li Na: “the prize money”

  8. KingBadger says:

    Li Na sounds like a good little capitalist. Comrade Mao would be proud.

  9. WoAi says:

    @KingBadger – We call it a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics.

    @Dingle – Thanks for the links. Very entertaining interview. She was clearly joking about the prize money! I thought the anniversary bit was best.

  10. WoAi says:

    And wow the BBC video quality was amazing compared to YouTube.

  11. Bittermelon says:

    I find that Chinese TV sports commentators have very little understanding of the sports they are commenting about. Watching NBA games on Chinese TV is totally frustrating because the commentators know absolutely nothing about basketball strategies. All they ever say is “good shot” “wow”, and so on.

    BTW the worse screamer in women tennis is that Italian player.

  12. Dingle says:

    you need a vpn connection shopgirl

  13. CP says:

    @Bittermelon: I wish I could understand more of the commentaries – I’m sure there would be plenty of Alan-Partridge style unintentionally hilarious/offensive moments. But I think it would annoy me even more if I could actually hear their ignorance.

  14. Stimpy says:

    I couldn’t agree more about the level of commentry here in China. It is something that they need to improve on.

    I get very frustrated while watching the football. Its already been pointed out, but all they ever say is ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Nice pass’ or ‘Good shot’. And they say it when it isn’t ‘beautiful’ etc. You just wonder what level of the game they understand when they describe a shot 30-yards off target as a ‘nice shot’.

  15. Stimpy says:

    Oh, and don’t get me started about all the ‘Oooooos’ and ‘Aaaagggghs’. So loud as well. Maybe that’s to keep people awake when you are watching a game at 1am. But I do feel it is unprofessional- just like watching it with your friends.

  16. WoAi says:

    @Bittermelon, @Stimpy – You seem to be echoing the same thoughts. And yes, watching football with Chinese commentary all you hear is “hao qiu, hao qiu, piao liang, hao qiu”. They may as well have it recorded on a continuous loop.

    @Shopgirl – You need a VPN for Dingle’s BBC clip as it only works if you are in England, but the YouTube one should be fine. My clip might only work if you’re in China. It’s almost like you need a UK VPN and a China VPN.

  17. IC says:

    Can you see youtube in China?

  18. WoAi says:

    @IC – No. YouTube is blocked in China along with Twitter and Facebook.

  19. Bittermelon says:

    The answer is pretty simple, I doubt that any of the Chinese commentators actually played the sport they are commenting about. Unlike western TV broadcasts, which always use at least one former player in that sport, China TV does not have that sophistication. I don’t think the commentators even know how to keep score at a tennis match.

  20. CP says:

    There are some sports where they don’t even bother at all. I once remember watching coverage of a Formula 1 race on Chinese TV, where there was no commentary whatsoever, just a hypnotic drone of endless cars passing a camera. For good measure, they had bought the cheapest TV package available, so there weren’t even any captions or statistics. Not only was it incredibly dull, but I had no idea which racer I was seeing or who was winning!

  21. Stimpy says:

    I remember watching a Champions League game at 3am on Chinese TV. The commentators started yawning.

  22. WoAi says:

    @Bittermelon – LOL, erm, so what comes after deuce again?

    @CP – Maybe the commentators were just lost for words!

    @Stimpy – Yawning? Well, if it was the 2008 Chelsea vs Man United final, I can’t really blame them.

  23. bittermelon says:

    After deuce that would be advantage WoAi.

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