Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

A new batch of aces

China finally has a bona fide world tennis champion in Li Na. Considering China's demographics and the history of the sport, she is unlikely to be the only champion from her country for very long.

For the world's most populous nation, it has taken an awfully long time. Finally China has a bona fide tennis superstar, indeed one of the few athletes from the Middle Kingdom who has become recognisable to sports fans across the world. But she is unlikely to stand alone for long.

On Saturday, Li Na became the first tennis player from Asia to win a grand slam singles title when she defeated last year's champion Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final at Roland Garros. If China's enthusiasm for the world's 4th ranked player heralds anything, it seems likely that there will be more aces to follow.

There are precedents. A whole generation of successful Swedish tennis players were inspired by the exploits of Bjorn Borg in the 1970s, while a decade later, a similar renaissance took place in Germany in the wake of the emergence of Boris Becker and Steffi Graff.

But the message for China, indeed for many Asian countries, goes beyond tennis. It is a signal that the world's emerging economies will be flexing their muscles in the sporting arena as well. It has been proven time and again that it is not the size of a country that matters in sporting excellence, but the support any given sport receives in social and monetary terms. Although 1.3 billion people probably won't hurt.

The rest of the world has been warned.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Al Fayah Park will be located on Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street opposite the Dome@Rawdhat. Courtesy Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation

In pictures: Abu Dhabi’s new Al Fayah Park

The plans for the new 125,000 square metre Al Fayah – which means 'shade' in Arabic – Park were unveiled on Tuesday at Cityscape Abu Dhabi.

 Faqar, a Baluchi labourer, is illuminated by the dappled light filtering through the palm leave canopy of the garden he is irrigating via an age old Falaj system, or water channels, used to irrigate the palm gardens of Al Ain. Antonie Robertson / The National

Focal Point: Immersed in an Al Ain oasis

Photographer Antonie Robertson immerses us in an Al Ain oasis

 Manager Jose Mourinho of Chelsea looks on from the dug out during the Champions League semi-final first leg match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. Paul Gilham / Getty Images / April 22, 2014

‘Now the game of our lives is at Stamford Bridge’ says Mourinho after Chelsea, Atletico draw

After Tuesday's scoreless draw, Jose Mourinho revealed Petr Cech's season was over and John Terry was also done unless they could reach the Champions League final.

 From left, Mansoor Nabil Abdul Ghafar, Mohammed Al Tamimi and Marwan Nabil Abdul Ghafar, three co-owners of Code CrossFit, Abu Dhabi's first CrossFit gym. Ann Marie McQueen / The National / April 2014

Abu Dhabi gets its first CrossFit gym, Code CrossFit, thanks to four Emirati friends

Four Emirati friends have joined forces to open Abu Dhabi's first CrossFit gym, Code CrossFit.

 Former Manchester United manager David Moyes, right, speaks to Manchester United's Welsh midfielder Ryan Giggs during a training session at the team's Carrington training complex in Manchester, north-west England on April 22, 2014. Andrew Yates / AFP

Giggs a better fit for Manchester United than Moyes

The winger, who has played 962 games for the club, has been placed in interim charge of the first team and will be assisted by his former Manchester United teammate Nicky Butt.

 One of the 21 duplex penthouses located in the curved sky-bridge at Gate Towers, spanning approximately 300 metres across three towers. Courtesy Aldar

Gate Towers Penthouse Collection on Reem Island launched by Aldar

The 21 duplex penthouses, which are located in the curved sky-bridge and feature private indoor pools and views of the city, were launched at Cityscape Abu Dhabi.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National