Sport Tennis

Chinese tennis arrives at the world stage

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.

So much has changed since WGM was first born back in 2009. In “Blast from the Past” we look back at some of the most captivating stories to grace our pages over the years – from gaming strategy tips to in-depth interviews and even some fearless predictions!

It would be an understatement to say that we love our sport here at WGM. From the EPL to the NBA, Wimbledon to Augusta, our weekends are usually spent planted in front of the TV watching every kick, pass and shot we can find.

Of course, such dedication to the cause means we also take great pride in our sporting knowledge – not only who is dominating the game right now but who to keep an eye on in the years to come. Earlier this year when the first Grand Slam event of 2014 rolled into Melbourne for the Australian Open, we cheered proudly from the sidelines as China’s Li Na cemented her standing among the tennis elite with her second career Grand Slam win following her French Open success of 2011.

Li’s Australian Open win fulfilled a prediction we made in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of WGM – more than four years ago – that the Chinese girls would soon make their mark on the WTA circuit and we thought it would be great to step back in time and take a look at exactly what we wrote about Li and compatriot Zheng Jie in those early days.

Soon after we published our story, Li became the first Chinese woman to break into the top five and the first to win a Grand Slam, and is currently ranked number two in the world. She was also honored on the cover of the 26 May 2014 issue of Time magazine in a story looking at her influence beyond the tennis court. Time said, “The tennis star is more than a global sports icon. She inspires millions of Chinese as a symbol of independence and freedom.”

Enjoy and, as always, all our past issues and articles can be found on our website,



Until now tennis has never been one of China’s biggest or most successful sports. All that has just changed as two Chinese women announced the country’s arrival on the world stage.

The blinding heat of Melbourne in summer may be tennis’ toughest test. It’s the first Grand Slam of the year and all the best players in the world converge on Australia to claim the coveted title. For the seasoned pros of the tour, their goal is to win another Grand Slam which is how they will be judged in years to come. For the lesser known players every Grand Slam offers them their breakthrough opportunity. A huge pay day and a move up the rankings is the obvious reward. Even more importantly a good showing at a big tournament like this announces a player’s arrival to the world. It all sounds so easy, but grabbing this opportunity is one of the hardest obstacles in world sport.

This Australian Open will be remembered as the championship that two young Chinese girls showed there was a new sleeping giant in world tennis. Li Na and Zheng Jie were drawn on different sides of the draw. Anything after the second round would always be a bonus. Both girls made history when they cruised into the fourth round which was the first time two Chinese players had ever made it into the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

Li Na in action

Li Na in action

Not only did they win their fourth round clashes they also won their quarter finals rewriting the record books again. Serena Williams and Justine Henin stood in front of the girls and unfortunately a Grand Slam Final was not in either of their destinies, this time.

It is a remarkable step for a country that has traditionally only ever performed well in the doubles – Zheng and Yan Zi teamed up to win the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon crowns. In fact, 2006 was a breakthrough year for China with Li becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon. Li and Zheng also competed in the first all-Chinese WTA Tour final in Portugal.

It has been a gradual build up over the last few years as Zheng shocked the tennis world when she reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon and achieved a careerhigh ranking of number 15 – the highest ever by a Chinese player. But Li matched Zheng by finishing the year ranked number 15 in the world after a form revival that saw her reach the quarter-finals of the US Open. Zheng was happy to tell the press how hard a struggle it has been for the girls after one of her bitterly fought matches at the Australian Open.

Li Na bound for a top 10 in the world rankings

Li Na bound for a top 10 in the world rankings

“We have been working so hard and we never give up on any match. We just play our best and try to hold on to every match. Step by step is the philosophy we have both used.”

The future looks bright for women’s tennis in China as both girls have quite a few more years left to play on the circuit. The biggest story to come out of all this is the impact that these results will have on the game of tennis in China. Young Chinese will be taking up the game in record numbers as they have been shown that they can compete at the very top level against the best in the world.

The next few years look very bright for the Chinese girls with the prospect of their two stars being ranked in the top ten in the world. There are a further four Chinese women – all aged 21 or less – ranked inside the top 225. It’s been a great start to 2010 and hopefully the Year of the Tiger will be a good one for our girls.