Former Olympic champion Li Xue Rui has announced her retirement from international badminton.
Li, 28, was among the most dominant players of her time before an injury at the Rio Olympics disrupted her career.
Li’s first major success was at the Badminton Asia Championships in 2010, when as a 19-year-old she beat Saina Nehwal and compatriot Liu Xin on way to the title. She continued to enjoy a meteoric rise, and was soon a favourite at most of the top-tier events.
Her first Superseries title was won at the All England of 2012, when she beat compatriot Wang Yihan in the final. That year would see a number of face-offs between the two, with Li winning five of their six clashes. Her biggest moment was at the London Olympics, where Li beat Wang Yihan in the final in three games.
Following a stellar season in 2012, Li was favourite to win her first world title when she reached the final of the BWF World Championships the following year, on home soil in Guangzhou. However, contrary to most expectations, Li was surprised in the final by a young Ratchanok Intanon.
The lanky Chinese would again be thwarted in 2014 by another unlikely challenger in the final – Spain’s Carolina Marin.
Li was one of the top contenders at Rio 2016, but collapsed to the floor during her semifinal against Carolina Marin and went on to lose 21-16 21-16. The injury, diagnosed as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) rupture, kept her out of the sport for over a year.
Li made a moderately successful return to badminton, winning her first comeback event – the Lingshui China Masters – in April 2018. She proceeded to complete a hat-trick of titles, winning the US Open and the Canada Open, but struggled to reclaim the form she had enjoyed at top-tier events.
Her last event was the Korea Open in September 2019, when she retired from her first round match against Japan’s Sayaka Takahashi, trailing 21-15 11-3.
Li, who finished with 14 Superseries titles and was BWF Female Player of the Year in 2013, will be remembered as an attacking player with a never-say-die spirit, who, along with her compatriots Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian, continued China’s glorious tradition in women’s singles.