“It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be,” said Li.
The 2011 French Open and this year’s Australian Open champion had surgeries to her right knee between 2008 and 2009 to alleviate problems due to excess cartilage.
Li, 32, had a fourth surgery after her third round loss at the recent Wimbledon Championship but this time on her left knee.
After the surgery, Li was not able to play in three WTA tournaments including the U.S. Open.
Li, affectionately known as “Big Sister Na,” said that retiring immediately is the “right decision” for her and after hundreds of shots to her knee to alleviate the pain and swelling, her body is begging her to stop.
After winning in Roland Garros in 2011, Li became the first Chinese and Asian player to win a Grand Slam title. She then moved to a career-high ranking of No. 2 after winning this year’s Australian Open. She eventually lost that ranking late July.
Besides Li’s two Grand Slam titles, she has two runners-up, has won nine WTA events and placed fourth in the Beijing Olympics.
Li also graced the cover of Time magazine in 2013 which named her one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert wrote: “Tennis has exploded in China. “The country now has 15 million tennis players; 116 million watched Li win the French Open.”
In this year’s Forbes list, Li is second to Maria Sharapova in the highest-paid female athlete.