Reforms set to push tennis forward

Updated: 2012-12-25 17:18

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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A bold move four years ago eventually saw a Grand Slam title realized, so it's now time to push even harder.

Aiming to produce more high-ranking players, like 2011 French Open champion Li Na, China's tennis governing body has vowed to expand its professional reforms to get more players involved on a large scale over the next four years.

Reforms set to push tennis forward

Li Na shows her autobiography entitled Du Zi Shang Chang, or Playing Myself during an autobiography-signing ceremony in Beijing, Sept 8, 2012. [Photo/CFP] 

"We've done a good job over the past four years, but we still lag behind the world's best in terms of professionalism," Sun Jinfang, chief of the Chinese Tennis Association, said at the recent national tennis development summit in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province.

"Our traditional State-run system doesn't work so well on the pro stage. We should improve it to meet the elite players' demands and get more players exposure in the professional atmosphere."

After allowing its top four females, including Li, to separate from the system and manage their own careers with personal crews after the Beijing Olympics, Chinese tennis started to rise with that group of players competing consistently on the WTA Tour and claiming titles.

According to new regulations discussed at the forum, the CTA will rate all players and place them in four levels.

Players who rank high enough to play in major main draws like Li, Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai, won't have to hand in a portion of their prize money and commercial incomes (formerly 8-12 percent) to the CTA under the new system.

Lower-ranked players who struggle to make WTA or ATP tournaments will continue to receive support while being allowed more freedom to set tournament schedules and market themselves. A group of world 100-200 ranked players — like leading men Zhang Ze, Wu Di and budding females Duan Yingying and Wang Qiang — will be expected to gain more pro experience and commercial endorsements.

For the ITF level players and juniors, the State system will take care of them but allow flexibility in the management of their training.

"Our long-standing system isn't bad but needs to be improved. We need it to keep working at the grassroots level as youth development costs a lot of money, which only the government can afford," Sun said.

To further market its managed players' value, the CTA is also considering building up its official sports agent service by setting accreditation rules for agents and then linking them with players.