China's women eye Doha gold

Women's tennis is tipped for gold with a team boasting four top-100 players

    Li Na, 24, is a former badminton player and is the first Chinese woman to be ranked in the WTA top 20.

    Li Na became the first Chinese woman to reach a quarter-final of a grand slam singles competition when she battled into the final eight at Wimbledon.

    However, the picture isn't all rosy. China's men have yet to notch up similar successes. None of those at Doha are ranked in the top 400.

     

    The Chinese women will likely face their biggest competition at Doha from Japan's Aiko Nakamura, ranked 57th, Thailand's 70th-ranked Tamarine Tasugarn, and Sania Mirza from India, ranked 66th.

     

    Tennis success increases China's traditional dominance of table tennis and badminton, sports that require relatively little equipment or space and are played on a massive scale throughout the crowded country.

     

    Booming economy, booming tennis

     

    Tennis, which was largely absent from China after the 1949 communist revolution, has traditionally received little attention.

     

    As China’s economy booms, so does its women’s tennis. With rising incomes and a growing taste for Western-style pastimes, like most sporting success, the women's tennis program has received a great deal of government support.

     

    One such example is the building of a lavish new training centre and indoor stadium in Shanghai that hosts the men's Masters Cup each year.

     

    And ultimately, across all of its sports, China is looking firmly toward the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when they will attempt to overturn the US's traditional top place on the medal table.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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