Despite Open win, tennis fans worry about lack of new talent
Updated: 2014-06-09 07:39
|Peng and Hsieh win French Open women's doubles|
Chinese mainland player Peng Shuai and her partner, Hsieh Su-wei of Taipei, made up for the loss of compatriot star Li Na's first-round elimination from the singles tournament, winning the women's doubles title at Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday. The victory cemented their status as the world's No 1 doubles pair.
It was the pair's second Grand Slam doubles victory; their first was at Wimbledon in 2013. It also was the seventh major championship, including singles and mixed doubles, for Chinese players since 2004.
Still, the doubles victory only serves as window dressing, because Chinese tennis faces a potential crisis without enough elite new talent emerging to replace the veterans, said tennis fans and insiders alike.
A lot of respondents on Sina Weibo's public discussion of the doubles victory were restrained in their comments on the impact of the doubles championship on Sunday evening, saying a singles triumph would mean much more.
"Congrats to Peng and Hsieh! But the doubles win won't whitewash the disappointing singles campaign this year, and this should be worried about," said a micro blog user who goes by the name Adam_da.
None of China's four singles players reached the second round in Paris this year, the worst show in seven years.
China's Zheng Jie, the world's No 70 player, also expressed her concern on the game's future.
"Young players might still be able to qualify for the Grand Slam events, but it's hard to see them surviving in the second week (in deep rounds). There must be some promising youngsters catching up; (the future of Chinese tennis) couldn't count on our generation," said the 30-year-old Zheng, who also was eliminated in the opening round at Roland Garros.
Boasting breakthrough results during the Women's Tennis Association Tour and Grand Slam events, the trio of Li, Zheng and Peng were dubbed the "Golden Flowers" by fans after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the Chinese Tennis Association allowed them to manage their own careers with personal crews outside the State-run system.
While the veterans stand tall for Chinese tennis in the world, none of the younger players, either male or female, consistently plays on a high level to continue the winning momentum set by Li, Zheng and Peng. The best Chinese players born in 1990 or later are Zheng Saisai, who is ranked 128th among women, and Zhang Ze, who is 207th among men.
Peng's former Chinese-American coach Allan Ma, a notable figure in the Chinese tennis community, attributed the younger players' slow improvement to a lack of motivation in the State-supported system.
"They don't have as much desire to work hard and to win as the senior group had," Ma said during the French Open.
"Training in the national camp, they don't need to worry about things like accommodations, hiring coaches and booking flights. Everything is taken care of by the CTA, and they feel like it's all to be taken for granted.
"Compared with foreign players, who have to work on their own, young Chinese players don't have the cause to fight for and compete harder," said Ma.