Finding the next Roger Federer

© Reuters Pictures

Over the years, China have produced NBA all stars, soccer players that have starred in the English Premier League and excelled in racquet sports like table tennis and badminton. Tennis wasn’t a popular sport in China until the rise of female stars Li Na and Zheng Jie. Now the search is on to find the next Roger Federer.

The highest ranked man from China is Zhang Ze who is currently at 308 on the ATP rankings. Coach Lu Ling believes that Chinese tennis will prosper soon due to the careful cultivation of the men through foreign coaching and regular touring. “The current crop of players are relatively young. And in keeping with international norms, we signed them up for a lot of foreign tournaments starting at an early stage, from juniors to the senior level,” Lu said. “Our goal is to break into the top 100 in two or three years.”

Tennis in China has not only been hindered by the lack of men’s professional tournaments as opposed to the women’s circuit but by also the lack of role models. Chinese-American, former World No.2 and 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang was an early role model to make inroads in the game. Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan was successful in the years preceding his retirement, reaching a career high No.9 in 2003. It will be challenge to get a Chinese man in top 100 or even the top 10 as there is a continuing trend with many talented male players choosing to complete their education over tennis.

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