Li Na, shrugged off the cyber-warriors sniping at her as the Chinese sixth seed booked her place in the second round at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The 2011 French Open champion was slammed on social networks after she tumbled out of Roland Garros this year in the second round.
Asked if she had an explanation for her legions of fans in China, “Do I need to explain?” she replied at the time. “It’s strange. I lost a game and that’s it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them? Apologise to them?”
That triggered a torrent of condemnation in Chinese media and from posters on social networks, criticising her attitude and professionalism.
But the 31-year-old said people had misunderstood her meaning.
“Maybe they have it wrong,” she said, adding that she had “no idea” how many followers she had on social media.
Li raced into the second round at Wimbledon with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.
“It was a pretty good start to Wimbledon. Because the last two years I didn’t do well on the grass court. I was shocked a little bit.
“I have to get used to playing on the grass. I was feeling pretty happy.”
Li’s Wimbledon best was reaching the 2006 and 2010 quarter-finals, though she tumbled in the second round on her last two All England Club outings.
“When I was standing up on the grass court, I was feeling, who made this court? I couldn’t run on the court. The team, they say, you should like this court. Why? I play more aggressive, so I can use the court,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s very tough to listen to what other people say.”
She signed autographs for Chinese fans who mobbed her on the courtside after her victory. She said she appreciated their support.
“Maybe they are students, studying in England. Give their holiday to watch tennis, have fun,” she said.
“I love it. Really.”
Li faces world number 32 Simona Halep next in one of the toughest possible second round encounters for a seed. The Romanian beat Li in straight sets in the US Open first round in 2011 in their only ever match so far.
“I played Halep one time on a hard court. Halep is doing well now,” she said.
“For me, it’s always a tough match in a Grand Slam. You never have any easy matches because everyone is fighting a lot.”
Meanwhile Zheng Jie, China’s world number 47, missed the chance of a rematch with Serena Williams when she lost 6-3, 6-4 to 100-ranked French qualifier Caroline Garcia.
In the third round last year, Zheng, a 2008 Wimbledon semi-finalist, gave eventual champion Williams a scare in a thrilling encounter, with the American eventually winning 6-7 (7/5), 6-2, 9-7.