When we think of tennis regions, the same few locations always pop up. Australia. The United States. England. Central and Southern Europe. Russia. We hope to have Hong Kong tennis included on that list sooner rather than later, and it appears the mainland is helping the cause by making a real push for China to be considered a top tennis country.
With improvements to tennis infrastructure, player development and a number of great tournaments, including the ATP Shenzhen Open, China is quickly becoming a tennis power.
The New York Times even wrote about it last month, and Forbes ran a piece last year.
Let’s take a look at the recent rise of Chinese tennis.
LI NA CONQUERS ROLAND GARROS
Back in 2011, the since retired Chinese superstar Li Na defeated Maria Sharapova in the semis, then defending champ Francesca Schiavone in the French Open finals to become the first Asian to win a Grand Slam event.
Over 330 million viewers tuned in to watch history being made.
Already a top player, the French Open victory cemented Li Na as a superstar, and she would go on to win the 2014 Australian Open before retiring that same year.
A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING
Though many were surprised to see Li Na ascend to such heights, they shouldn’t have been. China had been working towards building a tennis program since the late 80’s when tennis was once again included in the Olympics.
Li Na was not an outlier, but a success story.
LI INFLUENCE ON GIRLS
Li Na’s influence can be felt throughout East Asia. Here in our Hong Kong tennis schools, we often see young girls trying to emulate her.
The results speak for themselves. Although a Chinese woman has yet to replicate what Li did in Grand Slam events, they have continually ranked inside the top 100 and competed in major tournaments, things that were not happening a generation ago.
One slight problem is that this has mostly been seen in the WTA. In fact, here in Hong Kong the formerly defunct Hong Kong Open resumed for women in 2014 but still has no ATP event.
If only there was a male Li Na….
THE NEXT GENERATION
Wu Yibing, an 18-year-old from Hangzhou, may be the ATP star that Chinese tennis has been waiting for.
Last year, as a 17 year old, he won the boys singles and doubles at the US Open and has previously competed for China in the Davis Cup.
Take a look at him in action here:
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuqKjBKwCPY[/embedyt] What a great forehand.
Looks like a promising future for Wu, and for the popularity and success of tennis in Hong Kong and mainland China.
With great players and great tournaments it’s only a matter of time before another Chinese tennis player wins a major tournament.
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