Time has come for Peng to fly the flag

Updated: 2014-09-04 16:39

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag

Peng Shuai joins two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na and doubles star Zheng Jie as the only Chinese players to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament.

With Li at the center of Internet rumors and denials of impending retirement and Zheng's all too often failure to progress past the early rounds in singles, will Peng be able to take up the challenge to become the poster girl for Chinese tennis? Her success at the US Open has sparked inevitable comparisons. 

Peng on Li

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag 

"She's one of the really good players because she has had a lot of big wins. But everybody is different. She is she and I am me".

Although Peng admits to feeling more pressure of Chinese expectation with Li absent with a knee injury, she says that didn't mean she was content to toil in her colleague's shadow.

"I never feel like I am in her shadow, because I love to play. That's why I continue". 

Differing personalities

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag

In China, Li is regarded as the more selfish player. Worth an estimated $40 million, she is open about her desire to cash in on her success and has roiled the country by snubbing it at just about every turn. She set Twitter alight after winning the Australian Open in January by thanking everyone except the Chinese Tennis Association.

Peng is regarded as more humble and Party-friendly. Asked why she continues to play for her provincial team while Li only appears on the pro circuit, Peng says: "It's only once a year and I'm happy to do it. From a young age, I got support from [the Tianjin team]. If they ask me, I'm really appreciative. It's not that difficult." 

Coaching conundrum

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag
Unlike Li and Zheng, who travel with their husbands and have their own teams, Peng has experienced a coaching merry-go-round during her professional career. She has been working with former coach, Ma Kaiwei, since parting company with Swede Thomas Hogstedt after this year's French Open.

"He (Thomas) began to coach other players, even during the French Open," says Peng. "I have to say my lagging behind has something to do with that (unsteady coaching staff)." 

Market values

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag

The softly-spoken and humble Peng, her voice barely rising above a whisper when being interviewed on court after a match, poses no threat to Forbes list regular Li, who makes no bones about her wit in front of the media to become the sponsors' darling.

Sports marketing experts say Peng needs at least one Grand Slam title to increase her marketing value. 

Love match?

Time has come for Peng to fly the flag

The 28-year-old Peng tried to contain her emotions during her quarterfinal post-match interview about past ups and downs during her 37th Grand Slam campaign. Now, like her elder married sisters, she has company and a keen supporter in an Italian boyfriend she has been dating for six months.