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Halep, Pliskova hail rise of Chinese players

By China Daily in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-26 07:40

The fear that China's women's tennis would stumble after the retirement of the legendary Li Na is proving groundless.

Granted, Li won seven WTA singles titles and two Grand Slams and it will be years before a compatriot can even approach those feats. But with more and more Chinese names appearing in the WTA rankings, the gap is closing.

And the rest of the world is taking notice.

Seventeen of the world's top 20 players are playing in the Wuhan Open, which opened on Sunday at Optics Valley International Tennis Center in the central China city. Among them are world No 2 Simona Halep and No 4 Karolina Pliskova, who both commented on the rise of Chinese competition.

"I think there are a lot of good players in China and I'm happy that I'm not playing against them," said Halep.

"They are playing very clean, like Li Na. They are very focused when they play and they are young. I think some of them are very young. It's important that you have so many players. For sure, they will soon be rising higher."

Pliskova, who claimed a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 comeback win over world No 30 Zhang Shuai in the third round at this year's US Open, agreed.

Halep, Pliskova hail rise of Chinese players

"I played against a Chinese player at the US Open," said Pliskova. "I won, but Zhang Shuai was a very tough opponent. I think she will go very far, like Li Na. I think a lot of other Chinese want to play like her. They are tough and well prepared, and I think they will continue to get better and better."

The two superstars also spoke about their passion for tennis during a media conference.

"I love this sport," said Halep. "It depends on the players. Some players think that they need to love tennis and some players see it just as a job. So, you choose or you feel it. I just love to play."

Pliskova was more succinct: "If I'm away from it a week or two, I miss it."

Five homegrown players are in the singles main draw at this year's Open, the most in the tournament's history.

Peng Shuai, China's highest-ranked player at 24th in the world, and world No 55 Wang Qiang, who produced a major shock by defeating reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round in Wuhan on Monday, made the cut on their merit, along with Zhang.

Wang Yanfan who enjoyed most of her success on the doubles courts and world No 97 Duan Yingying, whose lone WTA title came on the hard courts at the Jiangxi Open in Nanchang 2016, were awarded wild cards.

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Halep, Pliskova hail rise of Chinese players

(China Daily 09/26/2017 page23)

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