From my perspective, her victory felt like a big deal because, when I saw her holding the trophy, the French Open trophy, a trophy of France and of Europe and of a signature, elite Western sport, the world felt just a little bit smaller.
Even better, though, was to remember all the times Li had hit all those perfect backhands in Indian Wells and Montreal and Key Biscayne, in Paris and at Wimbledon and on the back courts at Flushing Meadows, all those times I wondered why she wasn’t better. So many players never live up to that potential. Something gets in their way, usually exactly what had gotten in Li’s way—nerves, errors, outside problems, the immense difficulty in making yourself believe that you—yeah, you—can be a Grand Slam champion.
Li had a reason not to believe. Nobody from her country, from her part of the world, had ever won one before. Now someone has. Today, she lived up to all of that ability, and more significantly, she might have made it a little easier for someone else to do the same somewhere down the line.